The weekend before she would have started her freshman year of high school in Great Bend, 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt bounded out of her house shortly before midnight, ready to party.
She never came back.
The next day, her family reported her missing, setting off a search that ended three days later when her charred body – with traces of duct tape on her ankles and face – was found at an asphalt plant just south of town.
On Monday, almost two years later, Adam Joseph Longoria will stand trial in her killing. Prosecutors hope a trove of hundreds of text messages, surveillance photos from the convenience store where he bought a half-gallon of gas the night of her disappearance, gruesome crime scene photos and DNA evidence are enough to win a conviction.
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The community of Great Bend was so shaken by the cheerleader’s August 2010 death that more than 2,000 people attended a vigil to remember the teen known as “Babygurl.”
Attorneys face a daunting task to find jurors who have not heard about the high-profile case in Barton County, a western Kansas community of 27,674 people. Judge Hannelore Kitts has rejected defense efforts to move the trial, despite defense team arguments that a survey it commissioned of 400 local residents found that all were familiar with the case and that most thought Longoria was guilty.
The judge instead sided with prosecutors who argued the people of the county deserve the opportunity to have the case heard at home, contending the court should not assume jurors would not set aside any opinions and decide the case on its merits.
Longoria, 38, was arrested after he was found driving an SUV stolen from the asphalt company where he worked and where the girl’s body had been found days earlier.
Prosecutors have portrayed him as being immediately obsessed with Alicia after seeing her at a July 2010 birthday party for his live-in girlfriend, Eva Brown.
“He began to woo Alicia by fawning over her and providing her with mixed alcohol drinks. He wanted Alicia to be ‘his girl,’ ’’ prosecutors wrote in one filing. “When another male took her home at the end of the party, the defendant became upset, later accusing this individual of blocking his attempts to have sex with Alicia.”
Longoria and the girl began texting the day after that party, exchanging 55 messages on July 18, 2010. Longoria called Alicia “miss shy” and “hot stuff” and asked her to send him a picture, which she did.
Prosecutors say Longoria attempted unsuccessfully on four other occasions to get Alicia into a car with him.
The state contends that on Aug. 21, 2010, Longoria’s “depraved fantasy” came true when he finally lured Alicia into his vehicle, took her to an isolated area, attempted to rape her and killed her.
Employees at Venture Corp., the asphalt company, initially thought they had found a mannequin on the property, until they noticed flies around the burned figure and called police. The body was so badly burned and decomposition so advanced that the specific cause of death remains unknown. All officials can say for sure is that they don’t think she was burned alive.
Longoria has vigorously denied the charges of capital murder, attempted rape and criminal solicitation of a minor. He has a lengthy criminal record and was released from a Texas prison – where he was serving a seven-year sentence for aggravated robbery – just three months before Alicia was killed.
The state is not seeking the death penalty, but if convicted of capital murder, Longoria could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
He has claimed that he did not see Alicia on the night she disappeared, saying someone else took his car and cellphone that night. His attorney has tried unsuccessfully to suppress inconsistent statements Longoria made to investigators about his whereabouts at the time.
He also faces charges for vehicle burglary and theft of property relating to the stolen SUV.
Prosecutors likely plan to show the jury texts exchanged on the day Alicia was killed. An hour before Alicia left her house, Longoria allegedly texted the girl’s phone: “I can pick up and we can go out and party we will have fun.”
Another text message 21 minutes later read, “I have 5 bottles and 5 cases of beer an 1 house and there will be lots of people.” She replied, “K.”
A few minutes later she texted him saying she was ready and gave him her home address.
At 10:59 p.m., Longoria texted her again: “B there in 3 mins.”
A minute later, came the reply: “I’m here.”
The last signal picked up from Alicia’s phone was at 11:40 p.m.
At 12:57 a.m., Longoria texted the girl’s phone one last time: “There isn’t going 2 b a party never mind.”