MEMPHIS, Tennessee — A man once thought to be a witness in a Tennessee nursing student's murder case has been found dead in an apparent suicide in Florida, police said Thursday.
The body of Shayne Austin was found in a hotel room in Bartow, Florida, on Monday, said Sgt. Eric Sherouse, a detective with the Bartow police department. Sherouse said Austin was hanged.
Sherouse said there is no sign of foul play and evidence points to Austin committing suicide. An autopsy will determine the official cause of death.
Austin was involved in a legal battle about an immunity agreement in the investigation into the kidnapping and murder of Holly Bobo. She was 20 when she was reported missing in April 2011. Authorities say her skull was found in September in the woods of rural Decatur County, not far from her home in Parsons in West Tennessee.
Two men, Zachary Adams and Jason Autry, have been charged with murder and kidnapping in the case. Adams' brother, John Dylan Adams, has been charged with raping Bobo. All three men have pleaded not guilty. No trial dates have been set.
Austin had denied any involvement in Bobo's disappearance and death and was never charged. A March 6 agreement between Austin and authorities granted him immunity from various charges in the case, including "all charges arising out of the disposal, destruction, burial, and/or concealment of Holly Bobo's deceased body," court documents show.
The agreement hinged on Bobo's body being recovered from the place where Austin said it was buried. It also included a provision granting Austin immunity for drug-related criminal activity "not to include any drugs administered to Holly Lynn Bobo."
Prosecutors later revoked the agreement with Austin, saying he wasn't truthful or cooperative with them and had not complied with the agreement.
Austin's attorney, Luke Evans, filed a breach of contract lawsuit in chancery court to keep the agreement in place and prevent an indictment of his client. Evans argued that prosecutors were violating Austin's rights and said the state should provide evidence explaining why it revoked the agreement.
A judge ruled that Austin's lawsuit did not belong in chancery court because it was not the correct forum to address an immunity agreement in a criminal case. Evans then filed another breach of contract lawsuit in circuit court in Decatur County.
It was not immediately clear what Austin was doing in Florida. Evans said Austin had been "torn up" about being connected to the Bobo case.
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