Wednesday should have been a festive celebration for Holly Bobo and her family. It should have been a day filled with cake, presents and memories to last beyond what would have been her 21st birthday. Instead, her place at the family dinner table remained empty. Her absence was painfully evident to all those who care for her. Those same individuals are dealing with an equally difficult milestone today -- the six month anniversary of the young woman’s unexplained disappearance.
After 183 days and more than 900 leads, authorities still do not know what happened to Bobo.
"Of course the leads have slowed down as far as tips from the public coming in, but there are still some investigative leads that we have been able to develop and continue to work on," Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm told The Huffington Post.
Authorities in western Tennessee have been searching for Bobo, the cousin of country music star Whitney Duncan, since April 13. The young nursing student was last seen that morning outside her one-story, ranch-style house in Darden, a small community about 100 miles northeast of Memphis. A neighbor called 911 when she heard a woman screaming shortly after 7:30 a.m. Bobo's 25-year-old brother, who was inside his sister's house at the time, also called 911.
According to police, Bobo's brother said he saw a man dressed in camouflage clothing drag his sister through the carport next to the home and into a wooded area behind it. A small puddle of blood was later discovered by the carport.
Local and state law enforcement authorities coordinated a massive search effort behind Bobo's home. Investigators found items that belonged to Holly, such as her lunch bag and cell phone, but nothing to suggest where she was taken. Authorities do, however, suspect Bobo’s abduction was premeditated.
"We believe that it was planned out," Helm said. "[The abductor] knew her routine [and] knew the family's routine. We also feel it was somebody familiar with that geographical area. It’s a very rural area. In order to get in and out of that property you would need to know your way around."
Despite the passage of six months, Helm said there is still a good chance the case will be solved, eventually.
"It is not unusual for a case to go on this long," she said. "What's uncommon is how much attention this particular case has gotten. We do conduct missing person investigations quite often. Every case is different. It is not unusual for a case to be open for any length of time."
On Wednesday, friends and family gathered at the First Baptist Church in Parsons to mark Bobo's 21st birthday. Attendees prayed for her safe return and participated in a fast.
Bobo's mother, Karen, recently left her teaching job so that she could devote all of her time to spreading awareness about her daughter's case. Her father, Dana, is working part-time while he continues to search for his daughter. Her cousin, Whitney Duncan, has posted regular messages about Bobo to her Facebook profile, including one yesterday, in which she wished her a happy birthday.
"Happy 21st birthday to my beautiful cousin Holly! Please say an extra prayer for her today," Duncan wrote.
Pastor Kevin Bromley at First Baptist Church, who speaks on behalf of Bobo's family, did not immediately return calls or emails from The Huffington Post for comment on Thursday. Bromley told the Associated Press that the family wants people to continue praying for their Bobo’s safe return.
"Don't give up," he said. "We still have hope that she will return safely."
Bobo is described as a white, 5-feet-3-inch female, 110 pounds, with blond hair. She was last seen wearing a pink shirt and light blue jeans. Bobo's abductor is described as 5-feet-10 inches to 6 feet tall and around 200 pounds. Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 615-744-4000.