GREAT BEND — The world now knows 36-year-old Adam Longoria as a "person of interest" in the killing of 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt.
But a 31-year-old Great Bend woman who was making a life with Longoria at the time of the teen's death says she saw a person with promise when she first became acquainted with him about 11 months ago.
"He seemed like a pretty good guy," the woman said Sunday.
Her assessment of him has changed since Alicia's burned body was found Tuesday, more than two days after she disappeared, at the asphalt plant outside town where Longoria worked hours before the teen disappeared, the woman said.
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Longoria, who authorities said is a person of interest in Alicia's death, is expected to make his first appearance in Barton County District Court today to face a charge of vehicle burglary and property theft. He was arrested shortly before noon Friday on I-70 west of Salina while driving a 2002 white Ford Explorer. Authorities said it had been stolen early Friday from Longoria's employer, Venture Corp.
The woman, who asked that her name not be used because of safety and privacy concerns, said she first became acquainted with Longoria online. For about eight months, they corresponded by written letter. She knew he was in a Texas prison.
"I've always been the type... I was willing to give him the chance to change his life, because I'm a good person," said the woman.
After Longoria was released from prison, she said, he came to Great Bend to live with her and her two children, ages 10 and 12.
"He treated me good," she said.
"He cooked. He cleaned, did laundry. He had supper ready for me by the time I got off work."
She said they were like a family. "He's always considered me his wife even though we were not married."
For a while, Longoria worked temporary construction jobs, she said. Then, he got a job with Venture Corp., which does paving work, the Wednesday before Alicia disappeared. He started as a flag man, the woman said.
The following Saturday, Aug. 21, he worked at the Venture asphalt plant west of town where Alicia's body was found, she said. He came home from work dirty, "all black," she assumed from excavation work at the asphalt plant.
Authorities said Alicia was last seen leaving her home about 11 p.m. that Saturday. She got into a small, dark-colored SUV.
That same night, not far from Alicia's home, Longoria left his home about 11 p.m. in the woman's black 2002 Ford Escape, saying he was going to see a friend, the woman said. She said she thinks he returned within about two hours, between 12:30 and 1 a.m.
After Alicia's disappearance and death became a national story, and authorities began to suspect Longoria, the woman said, "He told me he wasn't involved, he didn't have nothing to do with it."
Authorities searched their house and impounded her SUV, she said. Investigators have "taken stuff out of the house," she said, declining to elaborate.
When he was arrested Friday in the vehicle theft, she became suspicious herself.
"If he was trying to prove his innocence, you don't go and take off," she said.
She also has learned that his Texas prison record was more extensive than she realized.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said last week that Longoria has done time on nine charges there since 1991, including burglary, forgery, credit card abuse, escape from prison and evading arrest. He was convicted of aggravated robbery in 2004 and was released May 25.
As the woman talked about how things have turned out, she choked back tears.
"My son looked up to him like a father figure," she said.