FORT WORTH, TEXAS — He told me, 'You haven't been the only girl in my life.' He said, 'I have had sex with someone else before.' I kept ramming my head against the walls. I just didn't want to live with what he had said to me. I felt like I had lost everything. My family wasn't in the best financial shape, and now he was telling me the one thing I prized more than anything else was taken away. I screamed at him, 'Kill her, kill her.' -- Diane Zamora, Sept. 6, 1996
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The journey to the Tarrant County Courthouse for her murder trial tomorrow began 16 blocks away at Harris Methodist Hospital, where 7-pound Diane Zamora emerged as the first child of Carlos and Gloria Zamora.
Most of the 20 years and 12 days in between have been marked by her family's poverty, religion and transience, and Zamora's efforts to distinguish herself from those roots. To break free from a life of creditors and bankruptcy courts. To rise above the infidelities of her father. To study hard to achieve her dreams of a life far from the flat plains of north Texas.
Zamora's goal, in fact, was to travel far above Earth -- an astronaut. That goal led her to Annapolis, where on July 2, 1996, she was inducted into the U.S. Naval Academy, seeking the college education her parents couldn't afford. But her ascent toward space was cut short, and she was pulled right back to Texas two months later, accused of killing 16-year-old Adrianne Jones.
According to police -- and the nearly identical confessions of Zamora and her boyfriend, Air Force Academy cadet David Graham -- Zamora was enraged with jealously over Graham's one-night tryst with Jones, a member of his track team. The only way to purify their love, apparently, was to take Jones' life.
Jones' body was found Dec. 4, 1995, in a remote field south of Forth Worth. She had been bludgeoned and shot twice in the face.
Zamora was arrested nine months later after shocking her academy roommates with a late-night tale of the vengeful plot. She's been in a Fort Worth jail ever since, four floors below Graham. Both are charged with capital murder, though prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.
When testimony begins tomorrow, Zamora's life will be played out before millions as Court TV airs the trial. Zamora's attorneys plan to show the jury an ordinary life corrupted by circumstance, clouded by love. They'll portray a girl who had achieved so much in her first 18 years, coming from so little.
Based on bankruptcy and criminal court records and interviews with dozens of relatives, family friends, neighbors, schoolmates, lawyers and Naval Academy officials (many of whom asked not to be quoted directly, because of the pending trial and a gag order imposed by the judge), that life looked like this:
Carlos Zamora and Gloria Mendoza met at a friend's wedding, where she was the maid of honor and he was best man. A year after they married, Diane was born, on Jan. 21, 1978, the first of four. The family lived in a small house on Bellemead Drive, which Gloria's parents had handed over to them.
Diane's mother worked as a directory assistance operator for Southwestern Bell while taking nursing classes; her father worked -- though infrequently -- as an electrician. With both parents often out of the house, Diane spent much time with her grandparents, Miguel and Mary Mendoza.
Miguel Mendoza had left Michoucan, Mexico, at a young age to study at an El Paso Bible school, where he met his wife. The two became itinerant ministers, traveling across Texas and preaching before settling in Fort Worth and, in 1975, starting their own church, Templo Juan 3: 16.
Diane spent nearly every Sunday of her life at Templo Juan, a white brick building on a commercial strip, between Santos Muffler and Flores Insurance Agency. "Un Oasis de Amor" is painted on its side: an oasis of love. Diane sang in the choir alongside her mother, while her father played saxophone.
"We were all raised in that church," said one relative. "Whether we liked it or not."
Diane was a shy child and had few friends. She listened to gospel music in a room decorated with posters of The Archies comic book characters. She always had a dog. Cousins remember her often playing with her food at family events, mashing stuff together in a gross effort to get their attention or a laugh.
But at age 9, Diane's life was changed by a visit to NASA in !! Houston.
Knowing that her parents could never afford to send her to college, she became more focused on the good grades she would need to become an astronaut.
"She was always into her books," said Sylvia Gonzales, Diane's aunt.
She also grew up fast. At age 10, neighbors trusted her to baby-sit their kids. With mom and dad at work, she played surrogate mom for her sister and two brothers. There was never enough money, and sometimes not enough food.
Between the ages of 10 and 18, Diane and her family moved four times.