COLLEGE

Search For Whitney Duncan's Missing Cousin Turns Up Evidence

Authorities in west Tennessee are examining potential evidence in the search for Holly Bobo, the 20-year-old cousin of country music star Whitney Duncan. The young nursing student has been missing since she was abducted from outside her home earlier this month, police said.

"We have taken in hundreds of pieces of possible evidence, so we are sorting through it to see if it is related to Holly or not," Kristin Helm, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told The Huffington Post.

On Sunday, investigators announced they had found a "significant" item. Volunteers reportedly told Fox 13's Earle Farrell the significant piece of evidence is a cell phone. Helm declined to comment and would only say that there are "lots of rumors and speculation."

Bobo was last seen on April 13 outside her family's 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 the house at the time, also called 911.

According to police, Bobo's brother said he saw her being led away from the home by a man dressed in camouflage, into a nearby wooded area. He said he initially thought it was her boyfriend, but became concerned when he noticed blood on the ground outside the residence.

Local and state law enforcement authorities have coordinated massive search efforts behind Bobo's home and throughout the surrounding area. In the days following her disappearance, investigators found what they described as a vital clue in her abduction.

"We found her lunch box about 8 miles from her home. It was on [the side of the road] where searchers had been searching," Helm said. "[It was] easily identifiable by her family."

Helm said authorities do not know if Bobo was carrying the lunch box when she was abducted but did say it is an item she would typically take with her every morning to the local technical school where she was studying to be a licensed practical nurse.

Authorities are still trying to determine if another recent find -- a strip of duct tape with her hair on it -- is connected to the case. "It is being tested forensically to see if there is a connection," Helm said.

Harold Copus -- a former FBI agent who was once hired by the "Dr. Phil" show to investigate the case of missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway -- said he does not believe Bobo was randomly targeted.

"The way this abduction occurred indicates to me that the individual who kidnapped her was familiar with the area and comfortable getting around in the woods there," Copus, now head of Copus Security Consultants in Atlanta said.

"Either this individual knew her personally, worked with her, went to school with her or was stalking her," Copus said. "He was obviously comfortable enough with his knowledge of her routine to commit this crime in broad daylight."

According to police, Bobo's boyfriend and family members are cooperating with the investigation. None of them have been named suspects or persons of interest in the case.

Whitney Duncan has been posting regular messages about her cousin's disappearance to various social networking websites and has also joined in several foot searches.

"Out searching for Holly. Keep the prayers going up please," Duncan tweeted on Saturday.

Neither Duncan nor Bobo's family returned calls or e-mails from The Huffington Post requesting comments. So far, Duncan has only participated in one media interview about her cousin's disappearance -- something that she addressed in her latest Facebook post:

"I was such an emotional wreck after it that I said I would not do any more," she wrote.

So far, authorities have received more than 300 leads regarding Bobo's disappearance and each of them has been or is currently being followed up. Investigators remain hopeful.

"Until we have information that comes in that would lead us to believe differently, we are working under the assumption that she is still alive," Helm said.

Bobo is described as a white female, 5 feet 3 inches tall, 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. The community is offering a $75,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for her disappearance. Anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact 1-800-TBI-FIND.