AROUND MANSFIELD, TEXAS, DAVID GRAHAM—schoolboy athlete, scholar and gentleman—was regarded as close to being a paragon. “You know how growing up, your mom tells you about the perfect guy, the perfect gentleman, and there’s nobody out there like that?” says Sarah Layton, a schoolmate at Mansfield High. “David was. He was one of the last cool guys on earth.”
It was fitting then that his true love, Diane Zamora, from nearby Crowley, seemed his equal—ambitious, near the top of her class, eager to join the military and learn how to fly. Last spring, when David was accepted by the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and Diane by the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., they were the subject of admiring stories in their local papers. And to seal their personal bond, they set their wedding date—Aug. 13, 2000—for soon after their planned graduations from the academies.
But early last month, the idyllic tableau they created was shattered. Police in Grand Prairie, Texas, announced that Graham and Zamora, both 18, had been charged with the cold-blooded slaying last December of 16-year-old Adrianne Jones, a Mansfield High sophomore whose body had been found on a rural county road. Both suspects confessed that Zamora, in a jealous fury, had ordered Graham to kill the girl because he had once had sex with her. In Mansfield and Crowley, just south of Fort Worth, the reaction was not so much shock as utter disbelief. “I remember being flabbergasted when I heard Diane had been arrested,” says Lorena Jordan, a family friend. “I kept saying, ‘This can’t be the same Diane Zamora. There must be some mistake.’ ”
There was no mistaking the brutality of Jones’s murder, which had baffled police from the start. On Dec. 4, less than 12 hours after she had slipped out of her home after dark, Jones’s body was discovered by a motorist along a road leading to Joe Pool Lake, a popular recreation spot outside Grand Prairie. She had been clubbed over the head and shot twice in the head with a 9-mm handgun. An exuberant and well-liked young woman, Adrianne, nicknamed A.J., had herself been an outstanding student as well as a cross-country runner at Mansfield High. “She always uplifted everyone around her,” says Tina Dollar, manager of the Golden Fried Chicken restaurant in Mansfield, where Adrianne had worked part-time. “She drew this smiley face on the visor she wore.”
The night Adrianne was killed, her mother, Linda, overheard her talking on the phone. ” ‘It’s David from crosscountry’ she says,” Linda recalls. ” ‘He’s upset.’ ” Adrianne left the house shortly afterward and was never seen alive again. On Dec. 6, relatives and friends held a memorial service for her at the First United Methodist Church. Later her school friends gathered at the track for a separate tribute. Among the scores attending was a tearful David Graham. “While we were there struggling in class to keep our sanity, he was sitting next to us,” snaps Jeff Lackey, 17, a schoolmate.
As a matter of routine, Grand Prairie police interviewed Graham, as well as other members of the track team. But he never fell under suspicion, despite the fact that a “David” was believed to have talked to Adrianne just before she disappeared. (Police did arrest another student—not named David—two weeks after the murder, but he was cleared when he passed a polygraph test after spending three weeks in jail.) The lack of interest in Graham wasn’t totally surprising since he was believed to have known Jones only casually. The youngest of four children of Jerry Graham, a former elementary school principal, and his wife, Janice, a former teacher, he came from a respected family and had impeccable academic credentials.
David not only excelled in the classroom, he also ran on the track and cross-country teams and was a battalion commander in Junior ROTC. He liked to tell people he had fallen in love with flying while seeing an air show as a first grader and had long dreamed of attending the Air Force Academy. With close-cropped hair and a no-nonsense demeanor, he seemed to some to have been born to the military. “He was very dependable, very courteous, very businesslike,” says Bob Sloate, manager of the Winn-Dixie store in Mansfield, where Graham worked after school. “Everything was ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir.’ ”
Graham found a kindred spirit in Diane Zamora, the oldest of four children of Carlos Zamora, an electrician, and Gloria, a nurse. The two met four years ago while enrolled in search-and-rescue training in the Civil Air Patrol. Zamora, who wanted to be an astronaut, was a member of the junior varsity track team, the National Honor Society, the Key Club and the drill team. Yet at least one person felt her achievements stemmed more from career calculation than from genuine interest. “She was building her resume,” says reporter Nancy Huckaby, who interviewed Zamora for a profile in the weekly Crowley Star Review. “She wasn’t really that involved.”
In contrast, friends and relatives were struck by her nearly total involvement with Graham. “I talked with Diane’s mother about it a few times,” says Sylvia Gonzalez, an aunt, “and she told me it was just a teenage thing.” But to many it seemed an obsession. Some say Zamora turned an icy shoulder to Graham’s friends and anyone else who came between them. “She controlled most of his life,” says Sarah Layton. “She even got him to quit a couple of jobs because she said it took time away from her.”
Others say it was Graham who ruled the relationship. He persuaded Zamora to compete in track, despite the fact she had never enjoyed running. Later, at her graduation, “he never took his arm from around her,” says Martha Kibler, another of Zamora’s aunts. “Several members of the family wanted to give her a hug, but David wouldn’t let go of her.” Still, Zamora apparently never felt smothered. “She was totally wrapped up in him,” says Gonzalez. “She thought he hung the moon.” At times the fixation seemed almost eerie. “Even when I tried to talk about her parents or the appointment [to the Naval Academy], she found a way to turn the focus back to David Graham,” says Huckaby. “She gave the impression that she couldn’t have done anything without David Graham.”
Including, it appears, keep a secret. In July they said their goodbyes, with Graham heading off to Colorado Springs and Zamora to Annapolis. But within weeks of their separation, Zamora confided to two roommates at the Naval Academy, reportedly during a bull session about the “worst thing” they had ever done, that she and her fiance had committed a murder and would carry their guilt “to the grave.” Alarmed (“People just don’t make up that kind of story,” one plebe told the Dallas Morning News), the women informed a Navy chaplain, who passed the information along to officials. Surmising that the crime, if there was one, had taken place near Zamora’s hometown, authorities in Annapolis asked police in Texas if they had any unsolved murders.
Detectives in Grand Prairie and Mansfield thought immediately of the Jones killing and sent investigators to Annapolis to interview Zamora. At first she insisted she had invented the story. “She said at the time she was just lying for sympathy and to bring attention to herself,” said Sgt. Chuck Sager of the Grand Prairie police. On Aug. 30, Annapolis officials placed Zamora on leave pending further investigation. (Only later did police learn that she then flew to Colorado Springs and met with Graham. “They had an opportunity to discuss who would take the blame,” says Dan Cogdell, Graham’s attorney.) When detectives interviewed Graham a few days later, he too insisted Zamora had invented her murder story. But on Sept. 6, after failing a polygraph test, he confessed. Ever the overachiever, he reportedly grew so impatient with the police typist that he tapped out the last part of his statement himself. The same day, police arrested Zamora. who quickly dictated her own confession.
Acting on a search warrant, authorities recovered barbell weights and a Russian-made 9-mm Makarov handgun, which was found hidden in the attic of the Graham home in Mansfield. But the most powerful—and chilling—evidence was the confessions, which told a tale of teenage love run amok. According to Graham’s statement, obtained by the Dallas Morning News, he had offered Jones a ride home on Nov. 4 after a cross-country meet. While driving, she directed him to the back lot of an elementary school, where they had a sexual encounter that he said was “short-lived and hardly appreciated.” Afterward, Graham was overcome with guilt. “I was letting down the one person I had swore to be faithful to,” he told police.
That same evening he divulged his infidelity to Zamora. “For at least an hour she screamed sobs that I wouldn’t have thought possible,” Graham said in his confession. Shortly, though, she regained her composure sufficiently to demand an act of atonement. “The only thing that could satisfy her womanly vengeance was the life of the one that had, for an instant, taken her place,” Graham said, in the oddly stilted language that is apparently his confessional style. In her own statement, Zamora reportedly told Graham “that the ‘purity’ of their love could only be restored by killing Adrianne,” says one law enforcement source. Graham insisted to police that he felt powerless to say no. “Diane’s beautiful eyes have always played the strings of my heart effortlessly,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine life without her…. I didn’t have any harsh feelings for Adrianne, but no one could stand between me and Diane.”
A month passed. Then on Dec. 3, Graham contacted Jones on the pretext of arranging a date. The plan, according to his statement, was to “break her young neck” and use barbell weights to sink the body to the bottom of Joe Pool Lake. A little after midnight, they drove to the lake in Zamora’s hatchback, with Graham and Adrianne in the front and Zamora hidden in the back. Zamora reportedly told investigators that once they parked, she sat up and confronted Adrianne for having seduced her boyfriend. Then a fight broke out in the car. Fearing that Adrianne might hurt Graham, Zamora said., she used a barbell to strike Adrianne in the head. “She [drianne] was fighting from instinct”—for survival, Graham said. Stunned and presumably bleeding, Adrianne managed to climb out of the car and began trying to get away—with David in pursuit. Apparently, Graham returned to the car to report that Adrianne was dead. But Zamora urged him to check again. This time, according to Graham, he stood over Adrianne and shot her in the face. In his confession, Graham said he wanted to drive away once Adrianne had fled from the car but decided he had no choice but to finish the job. “I knew I couldn’t leave the key witness to our crime alive,” he said. “I just pointed and shot…. I fired again and ran to the car.”
Back in the car, he and Zamora turned to each other. “The first thing out of our mouths were ‘I love you,’ followed by Diane’s ‘We shouldn’t have done that, David,’ ” Graham told police. “I thought, ‘Nice time to tell me.’ I just wanted it to be a dream.” The two later drove to Zamora’s house to clean up the interior of the car. “David wasn’t able to help [Zamora] because he was quite sick and vomiting,” says a law enforcement source.
Graham and Zamora, now being held in the Tarrant County jail, have been charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty. Mary Mendoza, who visited her niece on Sept. 22, says Zamora seems deeply depressed. “She is not doing so good,” says Mendoza. “She’s terribly lonesome. She cried the whole time I was there.” Her lawyer John Linebarger says that despite her confession, Zamora will plead not guilty.
Dan Cogdell says his client will do the same. The attorney plans to challenge the admissibility of Graham’s confession, arguing that police grilled him nonstop for 30 hours and denied his initial requests for a lawyer. In any case, Cogdell says, Graham invented his confession in a love-struck attempt to cover for Zamora. “He never intended to kill the girl,” said Cogdell. “Nor did he intend to have anyone else kill her.” Cogdell also told the Dallas Morning News that Graham’s mother has said she wants justice for her son, but “not at the expense of the Zamora girl.” He reported the youth’s parents are concerned that Zamora continues to exert, as he put it, an “unholy influence” on their son.
Despite the legal maneuvering that may soon match their stories against one another, Graham and Zamora have apparently not forsaken each other. Linebarger says Zamora “wants to know when she can see [David] or talk to him.” And as Graham was led in handcuffs to his cell last month, a reporter asked if he wanted to tell Diane anything. He replied with a wan smile, ” ‘I love you.’ ”
ANNE MAIER, CARLTON STOWERS, ELLISE PIERCE and JOSEPH HARMES in Texas, VICKIE BANE in Colorado Springs and ALICIA BROOKS in Annapolis