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 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 03:45
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David Graham full of remorse

A decade after trial, he would like to take it all back

04:07 PM CST on Saturday, February 9, 2008

By DEBRA DENNIS / The Dallas Morning News

HUNTSVILLE – A decade later, David Graham wishes he could take it all back: his petulant attitude, his oppressive relationship with Diane Zamora that led to the murder of a fellow teenager, even his own capital murder trial.

"I wish I had of pled guilty from day one," he said in a recent prison interview here. "If I had it to do over, I'd plead guilty to murder and let a judge sentence me and that's it."

Only that's not it.

Mr. Graham, 30, didn't plead guilty to the 1995 kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Adrianne Jones. Neither did his then-girlfriend, Diane Zamora, the doe-eyed femme fatale who, by most accounts, ordered Mr. Graham to kill Adrianne in a fit of jealous anger.

Ten years ago this month, a Tarrant County jury convicted Ms. Zamora of capital murder for her role in the slaying in one of the state's most spellbinding trials. Five months later, a Comal County jury – where Mr. Graham's trial was moved – convicted him of the same thing. Both received life sentences and must serve 40 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

In the months after Adrianne Jones' slaying, her killers showed no signs of guilt or remorse. The emotions and motives of two gifted, athletic and ambitious high school seniors remained quiet as they went about their normal routines, attending prom, enjoying family gatherings and enrolling in elite service academies.

The complexities of love, betrayal and death would play out later at their capital murder trials – which were televised live – spawn two books and inspire a made-for-television movie.

A decade after his conviction, Mr. Graham is scripting his own end to the sordid tale. After originally confessing to killing Adrianne, he later denied any involvement. He is now saying he killed the girl and had convinced himself that he could atone for it later.

But Ms. Zamora, also 30, maintains her innocence, telling NBC's Dateline last April that she only covered up the crime.

"I didn't go out there with the intention of killing her," said Ms. Zamora, who is housed at the Gatesville Unit. "And, when he did that, I didn't know what to do."

Full of regrets

Mr. Graham now freely says both are guilty but he is also remorseful.

"Regrets? I start with the simple fact of killing Adrianne and everything that surrounded that," said Mr. Graham, who admits he shot Adrianne and left her to die in a Grand Prairie field. "I don't see the two of us being any different in our culpability. "

Back in 1995, Mr. Graham and Ms. Zamora – who declined to be interviewed for this story – figured their lives would take similar paths, but then that road led far away from prison bars. The two were high school honor students, he at Mansfield High School and she at Crowley High School. The two had bright futures. Eight months after Adrianne's murder, he headed to the Air Force Academy, while she matriculated to the U.S. Naval Academy. They planned to marry after graduation.

But Ms. Zamora couldn't keep quiet. According to court testimony, she started telling other midshipmen that her boyfriend had killed a girl in Texas to prove his love for her. Finally, someone decided to tell, and Academy officials notified Grand Prairie authorities.

Soon, investigators had both teens in custody, accompanied by detailed confessions, which they later recanted.

But Mr. Graham now maintains that his typed confession was accurate. He told police then that Ms. Zamora demanded that he kill Adrianne after he admitted to a single sexual tryst with the girl after they returned home from a cross country meet in Lubbock. At his trial in New Braunfels, prosecutors presented evidence that the encounter with Adrianne never occurred, that Mr. Graham made it up to stoke Ms. Zamora's jealousy.

But even now, Mr. Graham insists that point, while distasteful to Adrianne's family, is true. He said that despite professing unending love for Diane, he realized that their relationship wasn't healthy and that he had begun taking interest in other girls. One of those, he said, was Adrianne, a Mansfield sophomore and a teammate on the Tigers cross country team. Their encounter was only one night, but it did happen, he said.

"There wasn't a lot of depth to it," he said. "It was just kind of a casual friendship that we both knew wasn't going to last more than a day or two."

Mr. Graham said in his confession then, and reiterated in the prison interview, that Ms. Zamora manipulated him.

"Diane gave me the ultimatum that either she would leave me or kill herself if I didn't help her kill Adrianne," Mr. Graham said last week during the hourlong interview at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville, where he is confined.

According to the confession, on the night of Dec. 4, 1995, Mr. Graham lured Adrianne from her Mansfield home. She got into the front seat of his car, unaware that Diane was hiding in the rear. They drove to a deserted area near Joe Pool Lake. Mr. Graham told authorities that Adrianne believed the two were going to make out but at that instant, an angry Diane sprung from the back seat and struck a stunned Adrianne on the head with a dumbbell. The frightened girl jumped out of Mr. Graham's car and ran. He followed her, gun in hand.

He shot her once and returned to the car, telling Ms. Zamora that it was done. But she inexplicably didn't believe him and ordered him to go back. He did, shooting Adrianne again. Her clothed but shoeless body was found the next day by the property owner.

"She [Diane Zamora] was the motivator, but I went through with it and that's all that really matters in a court of law," Mr. Graham said. "I'm not going to tell people who love Adrianne that we don't deserve life in prison."

Mr. Graham and Ms. Zamora went on with their lives, even appearing on the front page of a newspaper in a story heralding their golden futures. A Mansfield man was initially arrested but was released after three weeks when authorities found no evidence connecting him to the crime.

Grand Prairie police Sgt. Alan Patton said police had no other suspects and the investigation went nowhere – until Ms. Zamora began talking.

"It would not have been resolved," said Sgt. Patton, who took Ms. Zamora's confession.

'Wildest fiction'

Ten years after their highly publicized trials, much has changed. Adrianne's parents, in part because of the strain of their daughter's death, divorced. Both declined to comment for this story.

But family spokeswoman Janice Harris Lord said Linda Jones, Adrianne's mother, has been able to go on with her life and spends much of her time painting.

"Obviously, this is a sad thing for her, but her life now is about the present and the future and not the past," Ms. Lord said.

After Ms. Zamora's trial, Ms. Jones said the family wanted to dedicate a garden in Adrianne's memory. Belinda Willis, spokeswoman for the city of Mansfield, said Serenity Gardens was dedicated in 2001. She credited Ms. Jones with helping establish the gardens, which is inside Julian Feild Park on East Broad Street.

"There are bricks in the park that have been placed there by family members," Ms. Willis said. "And, yes, there's something there for Adrianne Jones. It's one of the first things."

Meanwhile, Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Mike Parrish now prosecutes drug cases. Ms. Zamora's defense attorneys, John Linebarger and Don Gandy, still handle cases but none on the level of this one. And Mr. Graham and Ms. Zamora, who likely would have been in the middle of the Iraq war by now, spend their days in prison.

"It was just so bizarre and out of the ordinary that when you consider their IQs, their plans, their ambitions, it made a bizarre story seem surreal," Mr. Parrish said. "It's the wildest fiction you could write, except, of course, it was true."

Mr. Parrish said jurors in both cases returned the correct verdicts.

"I don't want Adrianne to get lost in all of this," Mr. Parrish said. "While Adrianne is out there with two bullet holes, these two go on with their lives. They just lived their normal, everyday lives."

Eaten away by guilt

Mr. Linebarger and Mr. Gandy, who represented Ms. Zamora, said her life was anything but normal after the slaying. Ms. Zamora, they said, was eaten away by guilt.

"It's a case that haunts me to this day," Mr. Linebarger said. "There's just too many unanswered questions. How are we to understand the murder of a young, innocent girl? How do we grasp that? I've represented people who have killed because someone stole their dope or their woman. But this one, to this day I don't understand."

Mr. Gandy said he is struck by the fact that three families were ruined in one senseless act.

"One is dead, and two are in prison," Mr. Gandy said. "It was such a tragedy on so many levels. It was such an unusual thing to get two different defendants with such promise."

Mr. Graham and Ms. Zamora each have 30 more years to give the state. Mr. Graham says he is trying to recast himself, though he is torn between the need to take his punishment or "continue to live in a way that is right."

He is considering writing a book.

"I don't think that I should just hide myself away for the next 30 years," he said. " I accept this punishment, but I will continue to try to live my life."

In her interview with NBC's Stone Phillips last year, Ms. Zamora said she thinks about Adrianne all the time.

"I know Adrianne's mom can't see her, but my mom can see me. And, I know it must hurt, you know, 'cause I know it hurts my mom. ... I wish I could have made different decisions. But I didn't. And I'm not saying that I was right. And I'm not saying it made any sense.

"And I wish I could take it back, but I can't."

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“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
Winston Churhill
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