On the same day last spring, Diane M. Zamora and her boyfriend, David C. Graham, learned that their enviable high school records had won them appointment to the nation's prestigious military academies -- Zamora to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Graham to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The 18-year-old Texans announced their engagement to be married after graduation, setting the date for Aug. 13, 2000. But the clean-cut couple carried to their new campuses a terrible secret.
Early yesterday, police charged both Zamora and Graham with first-degree murder. Investigators say that in December they lured a 16-year-old girl with whom Graham had had a sexual encounter to a lonely farm road and killed her, sharing the slaying as they had shared so much else.
Zamora smashed a barbell weight into the skull of the victim, Adrianne Jones, law enforcement sources say. When Adrianne managed to open the door to Graham's vehicle and flee, Graham chased her and shot her twice in the head.
Zamora and Graham had kept their silence through a grueling summer's introduction to academy life. But last week, Zamora boasted to roommates that she had played a role in a murder. They told academy officials, who alerted Texas investigators.
Early yesterday, police arrested Zamora at a grandparent's home in Fort Worth, where she traveled after the Naval Academy placed her on leave Saturday. Graham was taken into custody at the Air Force Academy and jailed at nearby Fort Carson to await extradition to Texas.
Both have confessed in writing to their roles in the slaying, said Brad Geary, deputy chief police in Grand Prairie, Texas, where the killing occurred.
"We have statements from both of them that they caused the death of Adrianne Jones," Geary said.
People who knew Zamora and Graham in high school were stunned yesterday at the news that they had been charged with killing Adrianne. The gruesome slaying, and the failure of police to solve it for nine months, had traumatized the suburban towns outside Fort Worth.
But the discovery that the accused killers were two they had considered among their best and brightest young people left them aghast.
Bill R. Johnson, principal of Crowley High School, where Zamora graduated in June, gathered more than 100 teachers in the library yesterday afternoon after classes ended to tell them the news.
"The teachers were all shocked," Johnson said. "She was the type of student you wouldn't think would be involved in something like this -- an outstanding student, a hard worker, never any problems. She was in the top 10 percent of her class, in the National Honor Society."
Her Naval Academy appointment was announced at graduation, said.
Hoping to become an astronaut, Zamora had planned a military career for years, friends said. Her plans were almost derailed in 1995, when she flipped Graham's borrowed pickup truck and severely injured her hand. But with his support, she had recovered the use of her hand and won admission.
At nearby Mansfield High School, where Graham had graduated and Adrianne Jones had been a sophomore, students and teachers talked only of the arrests, one teacher said. Many were shaken to learn Graham, who had impressed teachers and peers with his conscientious, straight-arrow demeanor, had confessed to the sensational crime.
"It's a relief we found out finally who did it," said Cathy Britton, the assistant soccer coach of the team on which Jones played. "But you're still shocked it's someone you knew, someone you had finished out the school year with. It caught us totally off-guard."
Britton said she knew Graham, a runner, from cross-country and track meets. Once, she noticed that he had a tattoo of a lightning rod, a symbol of the Air Force Academy, on his shoulder and asked him what it was. He told her that it was his dream to go there.
'An excellent student'
Graham was the battalion commander of his ROTC unit and enrolled in honors classes, said Sherilyn Conn, a spokeswoman for the school district.
"He was very highly thought of, an excellent student," she said. "We're devastated."
Friends say Zamora and Graham met several years ago in the Civil Air Patrol, a volunteer air rescue program for young people, and were drawn together by their shared fascination with military life. They dated steadily and in an interview in May with the Crowley Review, a Texas weekly, Zamora credited Graham with helping her through the rigorous physical training that prepared her for Annapolis.
Investigators said the motive for the slaying could be traced to a single sexual encounter late last year between Graham and Adrianne Jones, an honor student and fellow runner. That encounter occurred after Graham offered her a ride home from a cross-country meet, said Grand Prairie Police Sgt. Doug Clancey.
"The guilt ate at David and he told Diane about it," Sgt. Clancey said.
Zamora was furious, and she suggested that to save their relationship, Adrianne Jones would have to be killed, Clancey said.