The Killer Cadets

They were young. They were smart. They were successful. They were in love. And they were cold-blooded murderers. Why did they do it?

THEY PROBABLY FIRST SAW EACH OTHER at a cross-country meet in the early autumn of 1995—two high school girls from neighboring small towns, competing in the two-mile run. There is no evidence that they said hello. Nor did they shake hands, as athletes sometimes do before the start of a race. Why should they have? It is doubtful the two girls even knew one another’s names. Adrianne Jones was a clear-complexioned, sun-kissed blonde, the kind of girl one boy described as “not just good looking, but I mean, good lookin’.” Diane Zamora, thinner and not as tall, was mesmerizing in a different way—her hair a dark circle around her face, her eyes dark as well, her eyebrows like slim shadows against her skin. “When she looked at you,” another boy would later say, “it was hard for you to stop staring back.”

There was no reason for the two to imagine that they had anything in common beyond cross-country. They were just pretty young teenagers in the full bloom of youth. What Adrianne and Diane did not know about each other, however, was that they were both drawn to the same boy—a lean, muscular high school senior named David Graham, who was described as “the perfect guy” by one classmate and “a brilliant student” by another. David was the kind of young man any parent would admire. He made straight A’s. He said “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” when talking to adults. “His life was so unblemished,” said one woman who knew him, “that he didn’t so much as throw a spitwad in school.”

At the time, David had chosen to be with Diane, who was called “the disciplined one” of the family by her mother because she would start studying for school before six o’clock each weekday morning. But David could not deny that there was something intriguing, and somewhat seductive, about Adrianne, who was called “bubble butt” by her mother because her bottom moved in sexy little circles when she walked. He found himself spending more time with her, talking to her, staring at her hazel eyes.

The two girls lined up for the cross-country race, waiting for the starter’s gun. It would not be long before they would meet again.

I thought long and hard about how to carry out the crime. I was stupid, but I was in love.—From the killer’s confession

IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF DECEMBER 3, 1995, a farmer driving along a desolate country road saw the body of a teenage girl on the ground behind a barbed-wire fence. At first, he thought he was looking at road kill. The girl’s face was nearly unrecognizable. One bullet hole was in her left cheek, another in her forehead. She had been hit so hard on the left side of her head that the part of the skull above her ear was caved in like a pumpkin. She was wearing flannel shorts and a gray T-shirt that read, “ UIL Region I Cross Country Regionals 1995.” Within hours, police officers identified her as Adrianne Jones, a sixteen-year-old high school sophomore from the town of Mansfield, southeast of Fort Worth.

A former farming community built around a grain elevator, home to an old indoor rodeo arena and some cheery antique stores along Main Street, Mansfield was one of the last places in the Dallas—Fort Worth corridor that still felt like a small town. In 1984, looking for a safe place to raise his family, Bill Jones moved his wife, Linda, and his three children—Adrianne and two younger brothers—to Mansfield from the Dallas area. He found a modest neighborhood where the homes were clustered together, the yards were like little green squares, and the echoey sound of children at play drifted down the streets. Jones, who made his living repairing heavy construction equipment, was a no-nonsense, bearded man who kept his heavy brown work boots on when he arrived home at the end of the day, wearing them even when he sat in his easy chair. He also was determined to keep a tight rein on his children—especially Adrianne, who was known as AJ. “I truly felt that if we had some rules that kept her away from teenage temptations,” Jones said, “we’d be okay.” It was only that autumn that he had allowed Adrianne to stay out past nine o’clock on weekends. If she told him she was going to a movie or to Six Flags Over Texas in nearby Arlington with friends, he would often make her produce a ticket stub when she came home to prove where she had been. He had nailed her bedroom windows shut so she couldn’t sneak out of the house at night.

It could hardly be said that Adrianne was a rebel. She took advanced honors courses, studied at least two hours a night, and was a good athlete. After she hurt her knee playing for the girls soccer team, she decided to join the girls’ cross-country team to get in better shape, and she became so good in the two-mile run that she helped the team qualify for the November regional meet in Lubbock. “Her school spirit was just so awesome,” said Carla Hays, an editor for the school newspaper, the Mansfield Uproar, bestowing upon Adrianne one of the greatest compliments a high school girl could receive. “I could see her becoming a cheerleader someday.” She also managed to work twenty hours a week at Golden Fried Chicken, a local fast-food restaurant. “She was my superstar employee,” said the restaurant’s manager, Tina Dollar. “I made her the cashier at the drive-through window because she knew how to put a smile on everyone’s face. She wore a hat with a smiley face drawn on the visor, and after taking an order, she’d say funny things to the customers like, ‘Okay, drive forward to the ninety-ninth window to get your food!’”

Adrianne thrived on attention, especially when it came from the teenage boys around town. One of Adrianne’s closest friends, Tracy Bumpass, called her

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