To the Bitter End

updated 03/02/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/02/1998 01:00AM

IN HER CONFESSION 18 MONTHS AGO, Diane Zamora said the murder of fellow high school student Adrianne Jones had been all about love. Zamora, by then a Naval Academy midshipman, told Grand Prairie, Texas, police that when her boyfriend David Graham admitted to having sex with Jones, she had flown into hysterics and screamed, "Kill her, kill her!"

"I just didn't want to live with what he had said to me," Zamora explained. "I felt like I had lost everything." And so, she said in her confession, after midnight on Dec. 4, 1995, she and Graham lured the athletic, 16-year-old Jones to a remote area outside Grand Prairie, where Zamora bashed Jones's head with a weight and Graham shot her twice in the face with a 9 mm handgun. Afterward, it seemed, their only thoughts were for their own peace of mind. "We went to church a lot," Zamora told police. "I know God has forgiven us."

Maybe so, but earthly justice is another matter. On Feb. 17, a Fort Worth jury found Zamora, 20, guilty of capital murder. She was immediately sentenced to life in prison and will be ineligible for parole for at least 40 years. As she listened to the verdict, Zamora displayed no emotion. Later, Linda Jones, mother of the victim, who would now be a high school senior, expressed both relief and sadness. "We would still rather be doing anything today than speaking to you about our murdered daughter," she told reporters. "Instead, she and I should be looking for prom dresses." Exhausted by the 12-day trial, Jones also hoped aloud that Graham, 20, scheduled to be tried this summer, will "step forward and accept responsibility" and bring the case to a close.

When the story of their arrest first broke in the fall of 1996, friends of Zamora and Graham were stunned. The high school sweethearts had seemed so exemplary in every way—high achievers with even higher ambitions. Graham, then a first-year cadet at the Air Force Academy, dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot. Zamora, who had won a similarly coveted appointment to Annapolis, had set her sights on being an astronaut. Everything was mapped out, including their wedding date in the summer of 2000, right after graduation.

But during her trial, the dark side of Zamora's single-minded determination became increasingly clear. During a late-night bull session in August 1996 with two Annapolis roommates, Zamora had confided she had been involved in a murder. (Police had found Jones's body nine months earlier, but the case remained unsolved.) "She said anyone who got between her and David would have to die," one of the roommates, Jennifer McKearney, testified on Feb. 4. "She said...the girl deserved it...everyone knew the girl was a tramp and a slut." When McKearney asked if she had any regrets, Zamora had replied, "No, it had to be done." Shaken, McKearney and the other roommate went to Naval Academy authorities. Within days, Zamora and Graham were in custody, and each quickly gave written confessions.

In fact, Zamora had previously told at least two other people, including her best friend, Kristina Mason, now 19, about the killing. Yet neither came forward, which Jones's parents found deeply disturbing. "It is beyond our imagination to think that any citizen aware of these terrible facts...could fail to report them," Bill Jones, a mechanic, said after the verdict. But Mason said on the witness stand that she hadn't really believed Zamora at first. Later, she testified, she was frightened that if Zamora had murdered Adrianne she would stop at nothing to silence an informer. "I was afraid she would kill me," said Mason, "or someone would come after me."

On the stand herself, Zamora claimed her friends were either lying or had "misinterpreted" her remarks. Insisting she had lied in her confession in a misguided effort to protect Graham, she turned on her former beau, attempting to portray him as the mastermind of the killing and herself as a reluctant accomplice. She described him as a chillingly possessive lover who at times had placed a gun in her mouth as they had sex. "He was trying to pretend he was raping me," she said. Zamora admitted she had been at the scene of the crime but claimed she wanted only to confront Jones for having seduced her boyfriend. Then, she said, she watched as Graham shot the girl. "I didn't want to believe it," she said. "It was like a horror movie."

In the end, Zamora could not escape her own confession. "I knew that things had gone too far and I couldn't stop," she had said, describing the night of the killing. "Somehow stopping seemed scarier than going on." Invited to address the court after sentencing, Bill Jones spoke through tears. "We all looked forward to a life with [Adrianne]," he said, his voice quaking with emotion. "We will never know what heights she would have [risen] to, because of this animal act. And we shall have to wonder the rest of our lives."

BILL HEWITT
CARLTON STOWERS in Fort Worth

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