GREAT BEND — Alicia DeBolt’s family waited almost two years to look Adam Longoria in the face when he was sentenced for Alicia’s murder.
But when that day arrived Tuesday, Longoria’s seat was empty.
He waived his right to be present in Barton County District Court, so he didn’t hear Judge Hannelore Kitts sentence him to life in prison without parole, or listen to Alicia’s mother and stepsister talk about what he took from them when he killed Alicia in August 2010, set her body on fire and left her remains at an asphalt pit where he worked outside of Great Bend.
“That shows how much of a coward he is,” the stepsister, Dawn DeBolt, said of the 38-year-old Longoria after the sentencing. “Today was our day to be able to say, ‘This is what you took away,’ and he took that away from us.
“We wouldn’t expect any less from him because he’s not a man,” she added. “He’s not. Anyone who would treat a 14-year-old child the way he did, he’s not a man. There’s no words to describe what he is.”
Tammy Conrad, Alicia’s mother, found a word: “Monster.”
Doctors told Conrad she would never be able to have children, so when she became pregnant in 1995, she said she called Alicia “my miracle baby.”
“So when the monster killed my baby girl, he not only took my miracle baby, he took part of all of our lives away, part of my spirit, zest for life and the happiness my Alicia would have brought to me now and the rest of my life, ” she said, reading from a statement.
“I can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all that she’s left,” she said. “Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her, or you can be full because of the love you shared.”
Family members wore neon yellow T-shirts with the words “The Aliciafied Experience” – the name of the softball team they formed to play in Alicia’s memory the autumn she was killed.
Beneath that phrase was a lyric: “If I die young, make me a rainbow.”
The state did not seek the death penalty against Longoria, but Kitts had little leeway in deciding his punishment because jurors convicted him of capital murder. In Kansas, a capital murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of at least life without parole.
To find Longoria guilty of capital murder, jurors had to determine that he committed criminal sodomy, aggravated criminal sodomy or attempted rape during the killing. Jurors decided he committed all three, and also found him guilty of vehicle burglary and theft. He was sentenced to 17 months for vehicle burglary and 7 months for theft. The sentences will be served consecutively.
Alicia was last seen alive leaving her home in Great Bend for a party just before midnight on Aug. 21, 2010. Her family reported her missing the next day, setting off a search that ended three days later when her remains, with traces of duct tape on her ankles and face, were found outside Great Bend at the Venture Corp. asphalt plant, where Longoria worked.
Prosecutors showed jurors hundreds of text messages between Alicia and Longoria, who began pursuing the girl after meeting her at a party in July 2010. The messages – including some showing he picked up the girl the night she disappeared – were featured prominently in the state’s case.
Other evidence included gasoline on his gym shoes and video surveillance showing him buying $1.32 of gas on the night she disappeared. Longoria’s ex-girlfriend testified that he smelled of gasoline when he came home and that her car — which he had borrowed that night — reeked of it.
Several witnesses testified that Longoria asked them to lie about his whereabouts that night. Longoria’s semen was also found mixed with Alicia’s DNA in the vehicle.
Longoria was arrested after he fled Great Bend, driving an SUV he had stolen from the asphalt company, just hours after investigators searched his house.
His defense attorneys tried to cast doubt on the state’s evidence, suggesting a tiny amount of DNA from an unknown male found on Alicia indicated someone else may have killed her. They also told jurors that because Longoria had previously bragged about having sex with the girl, her DNA could have ended up in his car on another occasion.
“Alicia had a past,” Dawn DeBolt said. “It wasn’t a good past. It hurt us when she went missing. We had a lot of people saying, ‘She’s just a runaway.’ ”
But family members knew better.
“We knew as a family something was wrong,” she added. “When she missed her cheerleading thing on Sunday, we knew she wasn’t coming home.”
Alicia was preparing to enter her freshman year at Great Bend High School and had won a spot on the cheerleading squad.
Dawn DeBolt said she tried to warn Alicia that her behavior could lead to something bad happening, but her stepsister wouldn’t listen.
“ ‘I’m fine,’ ” she said Alicia would tell her. “ ‘It’ll never happen to me.’ ”
And yet it did.
“That one person took it all away,” Dawn DeBolt said. “One second, and there was no turning back. That’s what people need to understand: One wrong move and you’re done. And you can’t turn back time.
“We want her story to go everywhere,” she said. “We want everyone to realize it can happen to anybody.”
Family members want to make Alicia’s experience a lesson for other teens and their parents.
“I want people to be aware of their surroundings — to be aware of their kids’ surroundings,” Conrad said. “This world is going to get worse. You can see it every day.
“These kids just need to open their eyes, and parents need to open their eyes, too."
Contributing: Associated Press