Young, In Love, In Jail

THEY WERE 14 WHEN THEY MET--A handsome, cleancut athlete and a pretty, dark-eyed honor student from a nearby town. They were inseparable all through high school, and when they went off to college this sum-mer (he to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, she to Annapolis), they had already made plans to be married, down to choosing a date in the year 2000. If they hoped for their lives to be entwined forever, David Graham and Diane Zamora will apparently get their wish. Both have been arrested and charged in the murder of a 16-year-old girl from Graham's hometown of Mansfield, Texas.

They killed, according to police, out of passion, jealousy and guilt, all emotions that should be kept as far from high-school students as possible. Their victim, police say, was Adrianne Jones, a vivacious blond sophomore who was a teammate of Graham's on the Mansfield High track squad. According to his written statement to police--which his lawyer claims was coerced and is inadmissible as evidence--Graham was driving Adrianne home from a track meet last November when she lured him into a brief tryst behind a school. Remorseful, Graham confessed to Zamora, but instead of absolution, he got rage. ""She had been betrayed, deceived and forgotten,'' Graham's statement said. ""Diane had always held her virginity as one of her highest virtues. When we agreed to be married, she finally let her guard down long enough for our teenage hormones to kick in. When this precious relationship we had was damaged by my thoughtless actions, the only thing that could satisfy her womanly vengeance was the life of the one that had, for an instant, taken her place.''

The plan Graham allegedly hatched was simple: he made a date with Adrianne, drove with her to a deserted spot in nearby Grand Prairie (with Zamora, police allege, hiding in the back of his car) with the idea of breaking her neck--only to discover, ""too late, that all those quick, painless snaps seen in the movies were just your usual Hollywood stunts.'' Instead, according to Graham's statement, he held the girl while Zamora bashed at her with a set of weights--and then, when Adrianne managed to run off into a field, Graham stalked after her and put two bullets in her head. Then the couple, exchanging vows of love, cleaned up their clothes and drove to their homes.

The killing of Adrianne Jones shocked and baffled Mansfield, a pleasant middle-class exurb of Ft. Worth, for nearly 10 months. Police arrested a friend of Adrianne's soon after the murder because he apparently divulged a detail of the crime that had not been made public. But he was let go--after spending Christmas and New Year's in jail. Meanwhile Graham and Zamora got on with their lives. Model youngsters, they won sought-after appointments to service academies and were profiled in the Ft. Worth papers. The break in the case came only last month, when Zamora said something in a late-night confessional to classmates at the Naval Academy that sent them to the authorities. She told two roommates that she and her boyfriend shared a secret they must ""take to their graves.'' In a matter of days, Graham was arrested in Colorado; Zamora, who apparently had been struggling in her early weeks at Annapolis and had returned to Texas, was arrested there shortly afterward. In an unfortunate footnote to the affair, another Annapolis plebe admitted that Zamora had also talked to him about the murder, but he had neglected to inform authorities; he resigned from the Academy last week.

Jail has kept Zamora and Graham apart, but not out of each other's thoughts. ""These two kids . . . are totally obsessed with each other, mentally,'' said Sgt. Chuck Sager of the Grand Prairie police. That obsession now faces a difficult test. Zamora's and Graham's families have hired separate lawyers, who intend to pursue separate defenses. In practice, that could mean each trying to blame the other. The lovers who vowed to let nothing come between them may have no choice now. Both their lawyers told them last week not even to speak to each other.