Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Texas Cadet Murder Case

Loose Lips

Ahead of them were summer boot camps, those final rigorous entry exams designed to remove some of the weaker "plebes" (Navy) and "doolies" (Air Force) before the tougher part began in the fall. After less than five weeks of intense physical tests, David would be made an official Air Force cadet, fourth class. As a member of the Class of 2000, he and some 1170 other freshmen (966 men and 204 women) had reached a milestone year. Next, he planned on joining the cadet honor guard, familiar territory from his Junior ROTC days. David was only four years away from his goal of becoming an Air Force pilot.

As for Diane, it was only the freshmen that started plebe summer, the tortuous camp considered an initiation rite into the Navy. Diane was one of 9,962 applicants requesting admission to the Naval Academy class of 2000 and one of only 200 female freshmen who dwelt at the campus on the banks of the Severn River. Statistically speaking, at least 10% of those enrolled in "plebe summer" would survive the six weeks of pure hell.

Diane had moved into Bancroft Hall, a rather imposing white building with 1,875 rooms, one of the largest dormitories of the U.S. Naval Academy campus. In order to continue her stay, she first had to "survive" boot camp, and then be sworn in as a Naval officer at Tecumseh Court. In a few weeks, some 4,000 uniformed young men and women would dot the court.

Over the next six weeks, the new recruits would be subjected to a grueling 100 hours of exercise, marching, shooting, and sailing. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. and going to bed at 10:00 p.m., their days would be spent proclaiming "ma'am" and "sir" at the end of every sentence in speaking to superiors. The plebes would also endure long boring tasks such as squaring corners on their bed and memorizing literally hundreds of pages of naval academy facts, including the first names and hometowns of every member of their platoon, then to recite it back upon request by any officer.

It only took a few days for Diane to recite the academy's strict honor code, known as the Brigade of Midshipmen Honor Concept, requiring that midshipmen have integrity, honesty, and fairness in all action.

It was celebration time for roommates---Jennifer McKearney, Mandy Gotch, and Diane Zamora---that had survived "plebe summer." The sense of relief loosened Diane's tongue. After midnight, the atmosphere was ripe for their sharing, all having undergone grueling weeks of hardship.

Increasing the intensity of the moment are David's continuous threatening e-mails in his attempts to regain control over Diane and her growing friendship with her squad leader and confidante Jay Guild, a handsome plebe from suburban Chicago.

After a lot of hinting around that Diane and David could ruin each other's lives, Jennifer remembers jokingly asking her, "Did you kill someone?"

"I can just say that someone is dead because of me," Diane said.

Astounded, yet skeptical, at first Jennifer McKearney and Mandy Gotch did not believe Diane. Jay Guild had heard her confession many times and just ignored it, eventually losing his position in the military because he did not tell the proper authorities at the academy. The two young women, on the other hand, true to their honor code, told the Navy chaplain about their conversation the next day. The chaplain then contacted a Navy attorney who eventually traced the unsolved murder to the Grand Prairie Police Department.

Two Grand Prairie detectives then flew to Annapolis, requesting that Diane come to the commandant's office for an interview. Her excuse for telling others that she and her fiancÚ had committed the murder was to "sound tough" and to "impress somebody." After two hours, getting nowhere, the Grand Prairie detectives sent Diane back to her parents' home by plane.

Part way to her destination, however, Diane boarded another plane to Colorado Springs to join David. First they stopped to have sex in the car, then later talked for several hours before David gave his confession. Those few hours spent together are not documented, yet it appears as though they colluded in their statements to the police. David, she claimed, had decided before their arrests that she would take the blame for the December 1995 slaying, given that her military career was over, and David supposedly had a brighter future. In reality, they grossly underestimated the legal system.  

They were both arrested shortly after their meeting: Zamora, in her grandparent's home, in the middle of the night and Graham, while carrying out his military duties as an Air Force Academy cadet.

Zamora and Graham in custody (COURT TV)
Zamora and Graham in custody

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