On Friday, a Pima County jury found Christopher Clements guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the 2014 death of 13-year-old Maribel Gonzalez.
Clements, 40, faces a second trial in February in connection with the kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Isabel Celis, who disappeared from her bedroom in 2012.
Maribel was killed two years later, in June 2014. Both cases remained unsolved until 2018, when law enforcement officials announced Clements’ arrest in connection with the deaths of the two girls.
The jury of six men and six women spent Wednesday and most of Thursday deliberating before returning with a guilty verdict on Friday afternoon. The trial lasted 10 days and the state called 24 witnesses. Clements did not speak.
Pima County prosecutors said Clements met Maribel on her way to a friend’s house, after leaving her own home following a fight with his girlfriend. Assistant Pima County District Attorney Tracy Miller told the jury that while they didn’t have a witness to explain how or why Clements abducted or killed Maribel, they believed Clements – who was more than a foot and weighed 100 pounds more than Maribel – suffocated the teenager and put his body in his trunk.
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He then briefly returned home in search of bleach before traveling to the remote desert region of the Avra Valley where Maribel’s body was eventually found, prosecutors say. Clements’ girlfriend told jurors that when he got home the next morning, he headed straight for the shower, then insisted she clean his clothes, the floor he had walked on and the shower curtain.
Cell phone records of Clements’ movements on the night of Maribel’s death place him close to where her body was found. Records also revealed that he used a police scanner app the night she was killed.
Clements was only linked to the case in March 2017, when he was assisting investigators with an unrelated case and pointing out landmarks in the area where Maribel’s body was found. At the time, law enforcement did not release any details about the specific location.
Detectives collected DNA from Clements, which, when tested against a hair found on Maribel’s body, could not rule him out as a suspect. A search of her electronic devices revealed a password-protected folder on a tablet containing dozens of photos of underage girls, some scantily clad and others later identified as local children. His computer showed searches that included “Maribel Gonzalez”, “traces of evidence on the body” and “a body found in the desert”.
Miller told the jury during closing arguments that the “mountain of circumstantial evidence” only targeted Clements and provided no reasonable doubt about his guilt.
Clements’ attorney, Joseph DiRoberto, presented witnesses who disputed the testimony of state experts, but called no character witnesses and did not establish an alibi for Clements on the night of the death. of Maribel.
A collective sigh of relief could be heard from the front two rows of the gallery, with several members of Maribel’s family weeping softly as Judge James Marner questioned the jury for their individual verdicts. There was no visible reaction from Clements, who stared straight ahead, motionless.C
Clements’ sentencing date is expected to be set at a hearing on October 12. He faces at least 35 years in prison or up to life behind bars.
Contact star reporter Caitlin Schmidt at 573-4191 or [email protected] On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt