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Adam Longoria murder trial opens: Texts, DNA at issue

GREAT BEND Prosecutor Andrew Bauch wants jurors to believe that the man who killed Alicia DeBolt and burned her body is none other than Adam Longoria. That he was the person who tried to lure the 14-year-old through a long series of text messages that began “Good morning, beautiful” and “Wake up, sleeping beauty.”

Besides the text messages, jurors will hear evidence that Longoria, 36, drove a black SUV similar to the one witnesses saw Alicia get into the night she disappeared, that Longoria later bought $1.32 worth of gas, that his shoes showed traces of gasoline, that a mixture of his DNA and her DNA was found in a semen stain on the floorboard of his girlfriend’s black SUV.

Defense attorney Tim Frieden wants jurors to believe that another man was involved and that prosecutors have a circumstantial case that is not as strong as the prosecutors portray it.

Attorneys outlined their cases during opening statements Thursday in Longoria’s capital murder trial. Jurors — nine men and five women — also heard testimony from Alicia’s family about the night she disappeared, on Aug. 21, 2010, less than two days before she was to begin her freshman year of high school. Her last day alive included a trip from Great Bend to Wichita with her family to buy clothes.

Bauch, an assistant attorney general, went first, with the prosecution’s statement, focusing on a timeline and narrative that essentially begins around July 17, when Longoria saw Alicia at a party. He was an ex-con from Texas who was living with his girlfriend and her two children near the same Great Bend park where Alicia hung out.

By the early morning of July 18, Alicia texted Longoria: “Hey, it’s Alicia.” When Longoria’s girlfriend saw the message, she asked Longoria who the person was, and he said it was some girl and that he just wanted to make sure she got home OK.

That day, Longoria and Alicia exchanged more than 80 text messages. He thanked her for coming to the party and said he wanted to take her out, according to Bauch.

At some point, she got this text: “What are you doing hot stuff?”

On Aug. 21, Longoria spent part of the night going to a bowling alley and a bar and grill with his girlfriend. She saw Longoria texting that night.

At about 11 that night, Alicia left her home “for the last time,” Bauch said.

Around the same time, neighbors saw a dark-colored SUV go back and forth on the street where Alicia lived and saw her walk out with her cellphone, glowing in the dark, and get into the SUV.

Cellphone records showed that Alicia headed out that night toward an asphalt plant several miles from town, where her charred body would be found three days later. Searchers recovered her phone in a nearby ditch.

Longoria told investigators that no one else besides him used his girlfriend’s black SUV that night, Bauch said.

Witnesses said that Longoria approached others and told them they needed to say he had been at a certain bar that night, even though he wasn’t there.

Longoria went to a convenience store late that night, looking for a fuel container, and buying $1.32 in gasoline.

An effort to get DNA from Alicia’s badly burned body found a small fraction of a male’s DNA in her mouth, but the source couldn’t be determined, Bauch said. In Longoria’s girlfriend’s black SUV, testing found a mix of his DNA and Alicia’s DNA in a semen stain on the floor.

Longoria’s girlfriend would reveal that he ripped into pieces the shirt he had worn earlier the night Alicia disappeared and told his girlfriend to get rid of it if she loved him, and the girlfriend threw it out, Bauch said.

Alicia’s body was so charred that investigators couldn’t pinpoint how she died, only that it was “homicidal violence.”

Longoria’s shoes tested positive for gasoline.

Days after Alicia disappeared, a state trooper arrested Longoria in the Salina area in a stolen white SUV that belonged to his employer, which owned the asphalt plant where Alicia’s body was found.

And there is one other piece of evidence investigators found, Bauch said – a text from Longoria to Alicia: “Wouldn’t think a girl like you would want anything to do with a guy like me.”

Defense statements

Frieden, one of Longoria’s defense attorneys, said the prosecution’s case is based mainly on circumstantial evidence and that he will raise questions to show it is lacking.

With the text messages, it can’t be proven who sent the messages, Frieden said. And records only show the area where a cellphone was used, not the precise location, he said.

Among his counter statements: The mix of DNA on the floorboard doesn’t show how or when the DNA got there.

The small amount of unknown male DNA in her mouth excludes Longoria, Frieden said. It raises the possibility that another man was involved or that the testing was contaminated, which should bring into question all of the DNA evidence, Frieden said.

The witnesses who saw the vehicle outside Alicia’s house gave varying descriptions, Frieden said.

And there are other things that conflict with the prosecution’s narrative, Frieden said. One witness thought she saw Alicia at a party that night. A foot impression near Alicia’s body didn’t match Longoria’s shoes. Investigators found none of Alicia’s hair in the SUV that Longoria used.

And other witnesses saw multiple vehicles leaving the asphalt plant, Frieden said.

He told the jury that Longoria, who could face life without parole if convicted of capital murder, denies involvement in Alicia’s disappearance and death.

Witness testimony

The first witness to testify after the opening statements, Alicia’s mother, Tamara Conrad, said she had heard of Longoria as a man who went by the name Rocko, who was supposedly about 25; her daughter thought he seemed nice. Conrad said she told Alicia “just to watch out and mind her p’s and q’s around him.” Conrad had never met Rocko. He was new in town.

When Alicia missed her midnight curfew the night she disappeared, Conrad quickly started sending text messages asking where she was. She thought Alicia would come home in the morning, just as she had a couple of other times, Conrad testified. She said her daughter could be a difficult teenager but was doing better.

On Sunday, with her daughter still missing, Conrad said, “I knew something was wrong.” She called police.

When Bauch asked Conrad if she could identify a photo of her daughter taken the spring before she died, Conrad said, choking up, “That’s my baby girl.”

Michael Mazouch, who works for Venture, the road-building business that owned the asphalt plant where Alicia’s body was found and that had hired Longoria days before Alicia disappeared, said he noticed something strange at the plant one morning.

It startled him, but at first he dismissed it as a burned mannequin, some kind of prank.

There were “jokesters” at the plant, so at first he thought “maybe somebody was messing around.”

Testimony continues today.

Reach Tim Potter at tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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