Adam Joseph Longoria, the 36-year-old Great Bend man charged in the Aug. 21 slaying of 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt will stand trial for capital murder and criminal sodomy in connection to the killing, Barton County District Judge Hannelore Kitts ruled Thursday afternoon.
The ruling came after a day-long preliminary hearing that included graphic testimony concerning text messages sent between Longoria and DeBolt on the night of her death, the alleged intimate relationship between Longoria and DeBolt, and the charred condition of DeBolt’s body found at a Venture Corporation asphalt plant southwest of Great Bend. If convicted, Longoria could face the death penalty.
“I have reviewed my notes and the evidence presented by the state,” Kitts said. Since it was a preliminary hearing, not a trial, the state only needed to prove probable cause. “I believe they have met their burden.”
Although she said the evidence presented was circumstantial, she is obligated to draw inferences “most favorable to the state.”
Following the hearing, Death Penalty Defense Unit attorney Jeff Wicks said his client “stood mute” on all counts. Kitts entered a plea of not guilty on Longoria’s behalf.
In addition, he faces two counts, one of vehicle theft and one of vehicle burglary related to the alleged stealing of a white 2002 Ford Explorer belonging to Venture Corporation and fleeing Great Bend on Aug. 27 after a search warrant had been served on his home.
He has remained in custody in the Sedgwick Correctional Facility on a $1.5 million bond since being transferred from Barton County to be closer to Wicks.
Longoria waived his right to a speedy trial (to be held within 90 days) and no date has been set.
Although not part of the preliminary hearing, members of the media had the opportunity after the proceeding to view the last page of DeBolt’s autopsy report which concluded she “died of undetermined homicidal violence.”
Prior to the hearing, Kitts ruled in favor of the state on a defense motion to drop charges based on a recorded jailhouse conversation between Longoria, in the Barton County Jail at the time, and his attorneys’ Wichita office, which violated attorney-client privilege. The defense also asked that, at least, the death penalty be taken off the table. Kitts also squelched that.
A state motion to not consider Eva Brown to be Longoria’s common law wife was also given the nod by Kitts.
The day included testimony from the victim's mother, Brown, Great Bend Police Department detectives and Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents. Topics ranged from the timeline for the night DeBolt disappeared, cell phone communications and forensic evidence.
Under questioning from prosecutor Berry Disney with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, the first state witness to take the stand was Tamara Conrad, DeBolt’s mother. She testified that she, her daughter and others had been in Wichita shopping for school clothes for DeBolt and had gotten home at about 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, the night DeBolt disappeared. DeBolt told her mom she was going to a party at the corner of Barton Avenue and Cedar Street with Ivan Ramirez, someone Conrad had heard of but never met. “She met him at parties.”
DeBolt changed into some of her new clothes, including jean shorts, a T-shirt and sweatshirt, came into her mom’s bedroom and said she was leaving. “That was the last time I saw her. She said she’d see me in about an hour and ‘I love you.’” Her curfew was midnight.
Under cross examination by Wicks, Conrad said she hadn’t actually seen her daughter leave and that when she hadn’t returned by her curfew, she called DeBolt’s cell phone at about 12:15 Sunday morning.
Although she said she called police early that morning, she said she went to the police station Sunday morning to report DeBolt was missing.
Next to testify was Tiffany Nily, whose backyard faces the Conrad backyard. On Aug. 21, Nily and her husband David were at a friend’s house on Stone Street, just a few houses south of where DeBolt lived. From the house’s front porch at about 10:45 p.m., Nily said they saw a small, black, shiny sport utility vehicle driving “really, really slow down the block.” It made three U-turns on Stone, winding up facing north in the street in front of DeBolt’s house.
Nily said they watch things in their neighborhood and take note of anything suspicious. This seemed suspicious.
From the porch four houses down and on the opposite side of the street, they saw DeBolt come out of the house, dressed in jean shorts and a white shirt, and talking on her cell phone. She approached the SUV and when it drove away, she was no longer standing there. Nily also said she could only see one person in the vehicle and that person had short hair. She could not determine gender or race.
Nily testified she saw what appeared to be the same SUV parked in front of the DeBolt home Monday morning.
In cross-x by defense attorney Tim Frieden, she said it was dark, and the only illumination came from lights at each end of the block.
Some of the most intriguing testimony came from Stephanie Smith, an intelligence analyst for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. She studied, mapped cell phone towers, and traced cell phone calls and text messages sent to and from Longoria’s and DeBolt’s phones, including the content of those texts.
The communications placed Longoria and DeBolt in the areas where the state claims the crimes took place, she said.
She read aloud the texts between the two starting at 9:46 p.m. Aug. 21.
“Why you mad at me,” Longoria sent to DeBolt.
“I’m not,” she replied.
“Then why won’t you talk to me? Want to party?” he said.
He goes on to say he has alcohol and that he can pick her up and “have fun.”
At 10:49 p.m., DeBolt texts Longoria that she’s ready to go and tells him she is at her house.
The next message came almost an hour later from Longoria to DeBolt. “There isn’t going to be a party. Never mind.”
There were other messages to other numbers during the evening.
The last text sent from DeBolt’s phone came at 11:20 p.m. Smith said there were in-coming messages, but no out-going ones.
At 11:40 p.m., the DeBolt’s phone no longer gave out a signal. Cell phones, she said, give signals even when not in use, unless they are turned off.
Frieden asked Smith if she knew for sure who was using the phones. All she could testify to was the origin or the messages, not who was actually sending them.
There were texts between DeBolt and someone known as “Baby Girl” talking about what they were going to take to school on the first day and who was giving DeBolt a ride, to school or to the party, it was unclear.
Jenna Pitchford, a clerk at the Love’s convenience store, 1221 10th St., was working that night and said she talked with Longoria shortly after midnight and he asked if she had a container in which he could hold gasoline. Time-stamped still photos of surveillance video confirmed he was there.
She didn’t have such a container, but, according to a cash receipt, Longoria purchased about a half gallon of gas.
Great Bend Police Detective Denton Doze said he had examined the video and determined a black SUV had pulled up to a gas pump.
In her testimony, Brown said she met Longoria in September 2009 and he moved to Great Bend to live with Brown in May 2010. They wound up living at 1801 Stone.
She said Longoria worked for Venture Corporation and had gone to work the morning of Aug. 21. However, he had Brown call Venture and say he had to leave because of a family emergency, which was untrue. He came home and during the course of the day had some friends over in the garage. That night, Brown and Longoria went bowling and out to eat, arriving home at about 10:30 p.m. Her children were at her brother’s house.
Brown said at about 11 p.m., Longoria told her he needed to go to Ghetto’s (a person’s nickname) house to look at pictures, taking the black Ford Escape, a type of SUV.
She texted him at 12:33 a.m. Aug. 22 saying she’d thrown up.
He responded “Damn.”
She called him and he said he was on his way home.
When they went out and when he went to Ghetto’s, Brown said he was wearing blue sweatpants, a gray T-shirt and white sneakers. However, he came back about 20 minutes later and changed his clothes. There were stains on his pants and he smelled of gas. She understood he had been working on a car.
He wanted the clothes washed and asked if Brown would throw away the shirt. She tore it up and dumped it in the street. They then went to bed. She was later asked to dispose of the pants.
The next morning, when Brown went to get her kids, she noticed a gas smell in the Escape and couldn’t find the can of air freshener that was normally in the vehicle, which is registered in her name.
On Sunday, she said she got text saying DeBolt was missing. She showed the message to Longoria who said he didn’t know DeBolt.
That same day, the same friends that had been over Saturday came over again. She also saw him cleaning the sneakers, using water and bleach, and knew he had washed the SUV.
On Monday, DeBolt’s sister came over to the Longoria house and confronted him. Brown said Longoria claimed to know nothing about the disappearance. At one point, when the two of them were along, Longoria asked Brown to say he was at Willy J’s, a bar, if the police asked.
Even after the disappearance, Brown said she and Longoria had plans to get married. In fact, he asked her and she initially said “yes.”
When asked if she still wanted a relationship with him, Brown said “I don’t know.”
The next three witnesses (David Klamm, a special KBI agent from Wichita, Cory Latham, a KBI agent, and James Newman, a KBI forensic scientist) testified to the grisly details about the charred body, autopsy photos and evidence DeBolt’s ankles were bound with duct tape and that there was duct tape on her face. Strands of clothing and jewelry were found.
They could tell she had been dressed at the time of her death and she was found at the Asphalt plant on Aug. 24 on her back. Scorching around the body was greater than that under it, indicating she was in place before the fire was started.
There were signs that an accelerant was used and a plastic jug with a consistent accelerant was found in a nearby cemetery.
Heavy rains, however, had washed away any footprints.
A pair of white sneakers seized during the search of Longoria’s house had accelerant residue as well.
Newman testified that although he didn’t find blood in the SUV, he did find seaman on the driver’s side floor mat, which matched the DNA profile of Longoria. It was mixed with DNA matching that of DeBolt.
The mixture “was from at least two” people. A point jumped on by the defense which asked if there could be more individuals involved.
In closing, Wicks said the state didn’t meet its burden for capital murder, which requires an aggravating circumstance. In this case, the state contends there was a sexual act involved. Wicks said there was no sex crime.
But, “it’s not just DNA,” Disney said. “It’s seaman.”
Disney said the fluid on the floor was evidence of oral sex which constitutes sodomy.
Also testifying was Hugo Hernandez, who said Longoria asked him to lie in order to provide an alibi, and Great Bend Police Detective Terry Millard who said Longoria told him he was at Willy J’s and didn’t know DeBolt.
Late Thursday night following the Tuesday, Aug. 24, discovery of the DeBolt’s burned body at Venture Corporation’s asphalt plant west of Great Bend, law enforcement authorities served a search warrant on Longoria’s home. Early the following morning, it is alleged that Longoria stole a Venture vehicle and fled town.
Kansas Highway Patrol troopers apprehended him hours later northeast of Ellsworth on Interstate 70.
He was arrested and charged with the theft Aug. 30. Authorities brought the murder charges Sept. 7.
DeBolt, 14, was last seen alive at about 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, leaving for a party. She never came home. After being found at the plant, her body was positively identified the following Wednesday night.
Longoria was released from prison in Texas in May and is also a suspect in North Carolina where he allegedly called bomb threats into elementary schools attended by children of his ex-wife. He had never been to North Carolina, but the woman came to Texas and they married there. She has since divorced him.