News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Thursday, May 1, 2014

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Haslam tours tornado damage in Lincoln County

FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he is impressed by the resiliency of Lincoln County residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado earlier this week.

Haslam surveyed the damage to homes and a school by helicopter and on foot, telling reporters afterward that he was struck by the “horrible destructive nature of this and the randomness” of the tornado.

“You’d see one house destroyed and another house 50 yards away, where not a shingle had been overturned,” he said.

Two people were killed in the storm that hit the largely rural area near the Alabama line Monday evening. Officials say at least 35 homes were destroyed.

Haslam said he visited the area to “express our sympathy to the families who lost two loved ones and all the other people who have seen their lives turned over end due to the destruction of the storm.”

Haslam said the state is estimating the damage to homes and businesses to apply for federal disaster relief.

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3rd man could face charges in missing student case

DECATURVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A Benton County man pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to murder and kidnapping charges in the disappearance of 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo three years ago.

Jason Autry, 39, entered his plea in Decatur County a day after a specially called grand jury indicted him.

“I’m falsely accused and innocent,” he told the judge. “Right hand before God, I’m innocent.”

A second defendant, Zachary Adams, also faces murder and kidnapping charges. The 29-year-old Benton County man pleaded not guilty to those charges in March. On Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty to an additional charge of coercion of a witness.

A third defendant could face charges in the case after prosecutors revoked an immunity agreement that had been worked out for him.

The March 6 agreement granted Shayne Austin, 29, of Decatur County, immunity from various charges, including “all charges arising out of the disposal, destruction, burial, and/or concealment of Holly Bobo’s deceased body,” according to documents filed in Decatur County Chancery Court and posted online by The Jackson Sun, which first reported them.

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