Man is charged in kid­nap­ping, deaths of two Ari­zona girls

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - NATION -

TUCSON, Ariz. — A man jailed since last year has been charged in the kid­nap­ping and killing of two Ari­zona girls who went miss­ing in 2012 and 2014, au­thor­i­ties an­nounced Satur­day.

Christo­pher Matthew Cle­ments, 36, was in­dicted on Fri­day by a grand jury on 21 crim­i­nal counts, in­clud­ing mur­der and kid­nap­ping charges in the deaths of 6year-old Is­abel Celis and 13year-old Mari­bel Gonzalez, said Tucson Po­lice Chief Chris Mag­nus.

Is­abel went miss­ing from her Tucson home in April 2012, and her body was dis­cov­ered in what was de­scribed as a ru­ral area in March 2017.

Mari­bel’s body was dis­cov­ered in June 2014 in the Avra Val­ley com­mu­nity near Tucson, not far from where Is­abel’s re­mains would be found three years later.

Mag­nus and other of­fi­cials held a news con­fer­ence to an­nounce the in­dict­ment but de­clined to an­swer ques­tions from re­porters and did not dis­close how the girls died or what prompted au­thor­i­ties to investigate Cle­ments in the killings, ex­cept to say that the FBI in 2017 learned Cle­ments might have in­for­ma­tion about the death of Is­abel.

He then pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to au­thor­i­ties that led to the dis­cov­ery of Is­abel’s re­mains, Mag­nus said. In­ves­ti­ga­tors later dis­cov­ered ad­di­tional pieces of ev­i­dence but did not de­scribe Satur­day what they had found.

Cle­ments al­ready had been in a Phoenix-area jail for more than a year fac­ing other charges when the in­dict­ment was is­sued.

Pima County At­tor­ney Bar­bara LaWall called the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Cle­ments as the killer of the girls “long over­due.”

“The heart-wrench­ing tragedies of Mari­bel Gonzalez and Is­abel Celis’ mur­ders have been com­pounded by a very long, long wait for jus­tice,” she said.

Is­abel’s fa­ther re­ported the girl miss­ing on the morn­ing of April 21, 2012, af­ter he went to her bed­room and she was not there.

Po­lice pre­vi­ously did not name sus­pects, but they said they found “sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances around a pos­si­ble en­try point” into the home.

A med­i­cal ex­am­iner last year ruled Is­abel Celis’ death as “homi­cide by un­spec­i­fied means.” A heav­ily redacted au­topsy report did not in­di­cate how she died.

Mari­bel went miss­ing on her way to a friend’s house and her body was found days later.

Cle­ments made his first court ap­pear­ance Satur­day morn­ing.

Mari­copa County sher­iff’s Sgt. Bryant Vane­gas said that Cle­ments was jailed in April 2017 on sus­pi­cion of bur­glary, theft and fraud­u­lent schemes.

The in­dict­ment made pub­lic Satur­day did not pro­vide any de­tails about how the girls were killed or what ev­i­dence linked Cle­ments to the killings.

It said he also was charged with bur­glary, theft and pos­ses­sion or dis­tri­bu­tion of child pornog­ra­phy in other cases dat­ing from 2012 through 2016.

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