Defense attorneys tried to sow doubt among jurors about the strength of the case against a Kansas man accused of killing a 14-year-old cheerleader and burning her body at the asphalt plant where he worked.
Opening statements Thursday offered the first public glimpse into the defense strategy in the capital murder trial of Adam Longoria, 38. 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.
Defense attorney Tim Frieden told the jury that the prosecution's case is based on circumstantial evidence.
"The state's case is not as strong as they want you to think it is," Frieden said.
But prosecutors meticulously laid out for jurors the evidence against a man they portrayed as obsessed with the teen from the day he met her at a party. Much of the case is built on a trove of text messages he sent her.
Prosecutor Andrew Bauch told jurors the witnesses and evidence they would present in the coming days would include several witnesses who will testify that Longoria asked them to lie about his whereabouts the night the girl was killed. He told jurors evidence shows the defendant's semen was found in the vehicle mixed with DNA from the girl.
Convenience store video shows him buying $1.32 worth of gasoline that same night, Bauch said. Longoria's shoes tested positive for gasoline, and traces of gasoline were found on the girl's body and the surrounding soil.
But the defense contends the state cannot prove who sent the text messages or prove when the DNA mixture found its way into the suspect's vehicle. They also contend DNA from an unknown male was found in the girl's mouth, which had been sealed with duct tape when her body was found.
The girl's mother, Tamara Conrad, testified her daughter left the house at 11 p.m. that Saturday night and was supposed to return by midnight. She acknowledged the girl had stayed out all night before but said she became increasingly concerned when she did not return the next day.
She identified Longoria as the man who two days later came to her house and offered to help find the missing girl.
Prosecutors also called to the stand a couple of neighbors who later identified the vehicle Longoria was driving as the one which picked up the girl at her house.
Michael Mazouch, an employee of the asphalt plant, testified he was startled when he saw what appeared to be a mannequin that was burned at the plant. He said he dismissed it thinking the "jokesters" at the plant were just fooling around with him.
Testimony resumes Friday.