Love is a Killer

It is nothing but an open field, a nondescript place beside a row of battered mailboxes along Seeton Road near Joe Pool Lake. But for months, it has been a site of pilgrimage for Adrianne Jones' friends. They have visited the field dozens of times since Jones' brutal murder last year, searching for answers--even clues to the identity of her killers.

The grass is now green where Jones' body once lay, and all traces of her blood have washed away. Mansfield police are certain they've found Jones' killers: two former honor students, David Graham and Diane Zamora, both 18. The two have been arrested and charged with capital murder. Police have also named a motive: Adrianne Jones evidently had trespassed on Graham and Zamora's obsessive love affair with each other, and the only honorable solution, in the teen lovers' eyes, was blood atonement.

It doesn't make any sense to Jeff Lackey, 17, who was once one of Adrianne Jones' closest friends. His voice no longer trembles when he talks about the girl he knew for 10 years, the first friend he made when his family moved to Mansfield. But that's only because the hurt--and the feelings of confusion and betrayal--have settled in so deep.

When Lackey heard about the murder, he skipped out of class at Mansfield High School, where both Adrianne Jones and David Graham were classmates, and drove to the spot of the December 4, 1995, killing.

"You could almost see an outline of her body in the grass," Lackey remembers. "The grass was just soaked in a crimson color."

With two sticks and strands of red wire, Lackey fashioned a cross and attached it to the barbed-wire fence near where Adrianne's body had lain.

But his attempt somehow to dignify the murder of his 16-year-old friend was short-lived. Within hours, Grand Prairie police had dismantled the crude cross, taken it to the station, and dusted it for fingerprints, believing it might have been left by Adrianne's killer.

Even so, Lackey returned a few days later to the empty field, along with his next-door neighbor and friend, Jessica Ramon, and Adrianne's mother, Linda Jones.

"Linda just felt like they missed something," says Jessica Ramon, 20, who lives with her parents and her 2-year-old baby girl in a tidy, modest house in Mansfield. She speaks with a soft voice. "I remember being scared and being cold and shaking, because Jeff and I were blowing smoke and our noses were red. I felt really dumb, like we were crazy people looking through weeds."

They didn't find the diamond stud earring missing from Adrianne's ear, or the gold necklace she'd worn with the letter "A" pendant, or any other clues. But something kept drawing them to the site, and Jeff and Jessica made the journey to that field several more times during the winter and spring. Adrianne's mother also visited regularly, spreading dried flower petals where her daughter's body was found.

Today there is still a depression, covered with shoots of grass, where Adrianne's head came to rest. Police had turned over the bloody earth with a shovel when they'd concluded their investigation of the crime site.

"The blood was right...see where that hole is over there? They turned the dirt there," Lackey says, lighting up a Marlboro and leaning on a fence post during a visit to the site last month with his friend Jessica.

"And some of the leaves were smushed--like you could tell something had been there--and there was a lot of blood on leaves and stuff by that hole."

Jessica, her wavy brown hair tousled by the Texas winds, steps over to the fence and pulls on something that resembles a strand of long, blond hair caught on the barbed wire. "Look at this," she says. "Weird."

She tugs on the taut wires. They were slack when Adrianne's body was found just a few yards beyond it. "A year ago, the barbed wire was all smashed down and pulled out to here," Jessica says.

Whether Adrianne stumbled across the barbed wire while trying to escape her killers, or whether her body was tossed over and caught on the fence--as Jeff and Jessica speculate today--may never be known. But tiny puncture wounds on her legs indicated that the only struggle that took place that evening was that of her body with a fence.

"We would sit around for hours, talking about it, looking for answers," says Jeff, tossing down his cigarette and crushing it with the toe of his hiking boot.

"And now we still do, and there's less questions, but more confusion," Jessica says.

"There's different questions," Jeff adds. "We were all doing a lot better until this happened," he says, referring to the September arrests of David Graham and Diane Zamora. "She'd call me crying, and I'd call her crying."

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Ellise Pierce