Prosecutors who say an "obsessed" Kansas man killed a 14-year-old cheerleader and burned her body at an asphalt plant must prove aggravating circumstances, such as sexual assault, to secure a capital murder conviction.
Opening statements are set Thursday in the trial of 38-year-old Adam Longoria. The Great Bend man faces life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder in the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. He also is charged with vehicle burglary and theft related to the crime.
To convict him of capital murder, prosecutors must also prove aggravating circumstances such as sodomy or attempted rape when Alicia was killed. The state is not seeking the death penalty.
Longoria's attorneys have not made public their defense strategy but suggested during jury selection that jurors must also be able to consider a lesser charge in the death that would not carry a sentence of mandatory life imprisonment without parole. The defense can delay its opening statement until the start of the defense case later in the trial.
Prosecutors have portrayed Longoria as obsessed with Alicia, who was killed the weekend before she was supposed to start her freshman year of high school.
They claim he lured the teenager into his vehicle after texting her about a party. Her family reported her missing the next day, setting off a search that ended three days later when her charred body, with traces of duct tape on her ankles and face, was found at the asphalt plant where Longoria worked just south of Great Bend.
The community was so shaken by Alicia's death that more than 2,000 people attended a vigil to remember the teen known as "Babygurl."
Jury selection edged closer to completion Wednesday with 44 jurors accepted into the pool after three days of questioning. A panel of 12 jurors and two alternates will be finalized Thursday once attorneys use their rights to dismiss some jury candidates without having to offer a reason.
Testimony in the case is anticipated to stretch into next week. As many as 170 potential state witnesses have been listed, although prosecutors have said they plan to call far fewer than that those to the stand.
Potential jurors were warned during questioning to expect gruesome crime scene photos to be projected onto a screen in the courtroom.
The government also has a trove of text messages Longoria allegedly sent the girl in the weeks leading up to her death, including an exchange the day of her death.