Lawyers presented closing arguments on Wednesday in the first of two trials of a man accused of abducting and killing two Tucson girls separately and then dumping their bodies in the desert.
Christopher Clements, 40, faces first-degree murder and kidnapping charges in the deaths of Isabel Celis, 6, and Maribel Gonzales, 13, in two separate trials.
According to court documents, Clements was arrested in 2018 and charged with 22 counts spanning many years in the deaths of Isabel in 2012 and Maribel in 2014.
The first trial, which has continued for the past two weeks, centered on the disappearance and death of Maribel who disappeared on her way to a friend’s house.
Pima County Attorney Tracy Miller, the prosecutor in the case, began her closing arguments with a haunting statement about Maribel’s mother.
“There was no way Valerie Calonge could have known that when her 13-year-old daughter walked out of her apartment to see a friend, she would never come home,” Miller said.
Miller argued that all the evidence points to Clements as the alleged killer.
She said evidence of his cell phone activity showed him heading towards the areas where Maribel was heading to her friend’s house as well as where her body was found, a remote desert area. near the roads of Trico and the Avra valley west.
Miller also said evidence showed he was monitoring police radio. Google searches of Clements’ devices reportedly showed searches such as “Maribel Victoria Gonzalez”, “Calonge”, “murdered children”, “traces of evidence found on body”, and “body in desert”.
She described how Maribel was found: dragged 50 feet off the road in the middle of a remote desert area, 30 miles from her home. She was found buried under tires, with no clothes, shoes or personal effects.
Miller also pointed to a statement made by Clements’ ex-girlfriend. Melissa Stark, his ex-girlfriend, was called to the witness box on the second day of the trial. She said Clements asked her if they had any bleach, went to buy more bleach; and then he asked her to clean his clothes, the shower curtain after his shower, and the floor from the front of the house to the bathroom. He also allegedly asked her if she had looked in the trunk of her car.
Other evidence suggests he had an attraction to little girls, Miller said, referring to the slew of photographs of little girls that investigators found on his computer.
Some were screenshots from videos, one of a little girl jumping on her bed, and others were taken in person in areas around Tucson.
Defense attorney Joseph DiRoberto said the state’s evidence was thin and was based on the fact that Clements had pictures of little girls and that there was no connection between him and Maribel.
To refute the defense assertion, the prosecution reiterated how the evidence points to Clements.
“We can’t give you an exact location of where his device was,” Miller said. “It’s the fact that his device is in all the areas where Maribel starts and ends. That’s how we know it’s linked to the murder.
During the previous day’s hearing, the court heard from Sy Ray, founder of ZetX Corporation and cellphone mapping expert, who said it was possible Clements’ cellphone was at the recovery site. of Maribel’s body between 2 and 2:30 a.m. on June 4. , 2014.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, Miller said that while the prosecution didn’t need to prove a motive, Clements’ motive was clear — Clements had an attraction to young girls.
DiRoberto listed flaws in the prosecution’s argument, including the lack of a cause of death and questions about the DNA that was tested. DiRoberto was referring to evidence presented at a hearing on Tuesday, in which the court heard from two defense witnesses, including independent forensic DNA consultant Michael Spence.
On Tuesday, DiRoberto questioned Spence, attempting to cast doubt on DNA test results that linked Clements to pubic hair found in the investigation. DiRoberto argued that the partial profile results could not specifically identify Clements, although Clements matched 18 of 23 areas where DNA data could be extracted from the hair.
The hair was not tested to determine if it belonged to Maribel, Spence said.
Spence testified that the tests used to extract DNA can only be used to rule out suspects, since the Y chromosome can be identical in males of the same family line and even in unrelated males.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, DiRoberto said the state failed to prove who the last person known to be with Maribel was, when exactly Maribel disappeared and how she died, among other unknown facts in the case. .
“There are endless possibilities of what happened to Maribel that are stronger than any reasonable doubt,” he said. “Maribel’s disappearance and death may be unrelated to Mr. Clements.”
The jury entered into deliberation at the end of the hearing and, at the time of publication, had not returned a verdict.
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