Reward Increased To $80,000 In Holly Bobo Case 4-13-2011 - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Reward Increased To $80,000 In Holly Bobo Case 4-13-2011

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said its reward for the safe return of missing student Holly Bobo, coupled with Gov. Bill Haslam's $50,000 and the community's $25,000, has increased the reward to $80,000.

"We are at a point now where we must follow the leads and let the investigation go where the leads take us," said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. "There is a family out here that needs closure ... and it's up to us to give it to them."

"Holly, if you can hear me, know that we are praying for you and know that we are doing everything in our power to bring you home safely. And mom and dad, they love you," said family friend Kevin Bromley on Tuesday. "To whoever may have her or the people who may be involved in this, we're praying that hearts will be changed and minds will be changed. ... Holly is a wonderful person. She comes from a wonderful family. And mom and dad have done a great job raising their daughter."

The TBI said Sunday it believes the person who abducted Bobo may have been someone she knew, and was likely from the Decatur County area. They said they are not ruling anybody out as possible suspects.

"Law enforcement is canvassing all the neighborhoods," said Gwyn at a Monday afternoon news conference. "We feel like the person is right here in the community, and we're asking the community if you know of anybody that just has changed their routine since Tuesday or anything like that, to let us know."

Investigators are convinced that the abductor is a local person because he was able to escape undetected.

TBI officials said they are checking into 250 leads in Bobo's disappearance. As far as new evidence goes, investigators said they are examining every piece recovered by volunteer searchers. Officials also asked residents to think back to last Wednesday and report anything unusual that they can recall from that day. Specifically, the TBI said it is asking citizens to try to remember if anyone missed work or appointments that day, or may have excessively cleaned a car or ATV.

"Rumors just were rampant ... and this is very much emotional for the family," said Lt. Brad Wilbanks, a Tennessee trooper.

Authorities told Channel 4 News that volunteers were called back to the local fairgrounds after investigators discovered "new areas of interest." One of those new areas is Natchez Trace State Park. At least 350 people were combing that area alone. Divers are also searching waterways near Bobo's home in Parsons, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is using sight-imaging technology to map the bottoms of lakes.

Clues Found

On Saturday, TBI officials said they have received tips about the 20-year-old nursing student's disappearance from across the United States. Authorities said Friday that searchers have found some items belonging to Bobo.

They said searchers found Bobo's white lunchbox by a creek about eight miles from her home and revealed that her brother saw blood outside of the house, though they haven't confirmed yet whether it belonged to Bobo, who disappeared as she was preparing to go to classes. Authorities also said searchers found some other items belonging to Bobo, but didn't specify what the items were.

Parts of Decatur, Henderson and Benton counties have been searched.

The sheriff of Decatur County told NBC's "Today" show Friday morning that investigators still believe the nursing student was taken against her will and is still in the area.

"Everyone in the community has been interviewed, and we do not have a suspect at this time," said Sheriff Roy Wyatt.

TBI Agent John Mehr said Friday that Bobo was last seen Wednesday morning being walked away from her home by the man toward woods around her home.

The TBI previously reported her 25-year-old brother Clint saw her being dragged away from the carport of her home by a man wearing camouflage clothing, but Mehr clarified that description.

Mehr said during a Friday news conference that that she was being held by the hand or arm, but not in a forceful manner, and that they think she felt she was in fear of her life and that's why she complied and walked with him.

"Holly being located is a main concern," Mehr said.

A sheriff said bad weather -- including the threat of hail, wind and possibly tornadoes -- moving through western Tennessee affected Friday's search.

Authorities said the 911 center received two phone calls when Bobo was abducted Wednesday morning from her Decatur County home. One call was from her brother, who was in the home, and the other was from a woman police did not identify.

Parents Make Tearful Plea

Bobo's family held a tearful news conference Thursday afternoon as Wyatt announced a $25,000 reward for details that help lead to her safe return. Bobo's father, Dana Bobo, said that he thought the kidnapper was someone close to his daughter because the person had to know her routine.

"I just have a feeling it might have been somebody close, who knew our routine -- when she (his wife) left, when I left, when our daughter left," Dana Bobo said.

Investigators said they are looking into the possibility that someone may have checked out her home before the abduction.

"Holly, I love you so much," her mother, Karen Bobo, an elementary school teacher, said through sobs. "She's just so precious; you don't even know."

The search area was widened Thursday and covered rugged terrain with trees and brush so thick that at least one search dog had to be carried by its handler, police said. Authorities also used a helicopter to scan from the sky.

Law enforcement officers were being helped in the search by people who turned out because they are concerned about Bobo's fate.

"We're just all close," said volunteer Bryan Smith. "Everybody's close in this town and the county."

Bobo was taken from a one-story, ranch-style house, faced in brown brick. The houses are not close together, and some are on parcels large enough for the owners to keep livestock.

The kidnapping has stunned the community of Darden, about 100 miles northeast of Memphis.

"We would never expect anything like that," Wyatt said. "And I think that's why it is so devastating to all of us."

Asked how Bobo's family is handling her abduction, Wyatt replied, "Not good."

Since news of the case spread, businesses in the town of about 2,500 people have posted fliers with her photo, taken food to the family and held a prayer vigil, said Decatur County Mayor Michael Smith. He said the close-knit community has little crime.

Bobo is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. She was last seen April 13 wearing a pink shirt and light blue jeans.

Bud Grimes, a spokesman for the University of Tennessee at Martin, said Bobo was studying to be a licensed practical nurse through the Tennessee Technology Center. She was taking classes at the university's extension campus in Parsons but was not a UT-Martin student.

Bobo's mother is an elementary school teacher, and her father works for a tree service company.

Courtney Jeffreys, 20, went to school with Bobo since preschool and said she loves animals and always had a lot of different kinds of pets growing up. "She is just a really sweet girl," Jeffreys said.

Family friend David Ivey, whose son went to high school with Bobo, said the young woman has an "angelic voice" and loved to show it off in talent contests at school. She also would sing solos at Corinth Baptist Church where she was a member, he said.

Bobo's pastor, Don Franks, said he has known her all her life and said she is "a fine young Christian girl." He said the community response has been exceptional.

"The whole community is praying for her safety and well-being," Franks said.

Description Of Possible Attacker

A TBI spokesman said the possible abductor is a man between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds and not her boyfriend. Officials said the Bobo family has been extremely cooperative in the investigation.

No one in the Bobo family has any criminal history, according to the Decatur County clerk of court. The Sheriff's Department described the Bobo family as a strong Christian family who does not deserve this situation. Authorities are pursuing many different leads.

Since news of the case spread, neighbors and people in nearby communities have poured out to help search, bring food and support family members who are holding together reasonably well, Smith said.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Bobo is asked to call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND. Dogs, horses and helicopters are being used in the search for Bobo.


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