First trial begins for man accused of killing 2 Tucson girls

September 14, 2022 GMT

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The first of two trials for a man accused of abducting and killing two young Tucson girls separately and dumping their bodies in the desert has started, with lawyers from both sides arguing about DNA evidence and cellphone tracking.

Christopher Clements, who authorities say is a 40-year-old convicted sex offender with a long criminal record, was arrested in 2018 and indicted on 22 felony counts including two counts each of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the deaths of 6-year-old Isabel Celis and 13-year-old Maribel Gonzalez.

He’s currently serving a prison sentence of up to 35 years for a Maricopa County burglary in 2017.

Clements is being tried first in the Gonzalez case, which is scheduled for 14 court days.

He will face a different jury for the Celis case with that trial scheduled to start Feb. 2 and could run through March 3.

Celis vanished from her parents’ Tucson home in April 2012 while Gonzalez disappeared while walking to a friend’s house in June 2014, according to authorities.

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They said Gonzalez’ body was found days after her disappearance while Celis’ remains weren’t recovered until 2017 after Clements led federal agents to the location.

In her opening statement Tuesday, Pima County prosecutor Tracy Miller said GPS records from Clements’ cellphone are consistent with it being in the area where Gonzalez’s naked body was found covered by two tires under a mesquite tree.

Miller said on the night Gonzalez disappeared, Clements argued with his girlfriend, left his house and stayed out all night. He then reportedly returned home, took a shower and asked his girlfriend to wash his clothes, clean the floor where he’d walked in and also clean the shower curtain with bleach.

According to Miller, male DNA was found on hair samples taken from Gonzalez’s body. She said the DNA is not a perfect match, but is good enough to say Clements cannot be excluded as the source.

Defense attorney Joseph DiRoberto questioned the precision of the DNA evidence and said it could match as many as 1-in-8,600 men and not just Clements.

DiRoberto also questioned the cellphone tracking, saying it could have detected Clements driving down Interstate 10 and not at the scene where the body was found.