Zachary Adams has been charged in the 2011 disappearance and murder of Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo, who vanished that year at age 20.
Authorities have charged neighbor Adams, 29, with first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping after an investigation spanning almost three years.
State, federal and local authorities announced the stunning murder charge against Adams to audible cries in a Dacaturville courtroom Wednesday afternoon.
The charges against Adams come less than a week after a search warrant was performed at his home along with multiple other locations in the area.
Bobo's family never gave up hope that they would find her alive. She was last seen by her brother walking away from their home with an unknown man.
The connection between Zachary Adams, who has a prior arrests including for domestic violence, and the young woman was not revealed by authorities.
They instead stressed their determination to stay tight-lipped regarding details about their investigation, including whether Bobo's body has been found.
"This is too important, this is very, very important. It's taken us three years ... we can't mess this up now," said Tenn. Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn.
As for Bobo's family members, who were informed about the charges ahead of Wednesday's conference, they were described as devastated by the news.
"They've been devastated for three years but we hope this is the beginning of closure," said Gwyn of the family, whose loss can't be put into words.
Adams, who has been held behind bars since last Friday on an unrelated aggravated assault charge, is now being held without bond in the Bobo case.