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Clements guilty in child murder trial

Convicted in death of 13-year-old Maribel Gonzalez
Maribel Gonzalez
Posted at 2:50 PM, Sep 30, 2022

TUCSON, AZ (KGUN) — Jurors have found Christopher Clements guilty in the death of 13-year-old Maribel Gonzalez.

He was found guilty on two separate charges: Guilty on the charge of first degree murder of an individual under 15 years of age, and guilty for kidnapping a victim under the age of 15.

They had been deliberating since about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday and announced the guilty verdicts the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 30 around 2:50 p.m.

Clements could face life in prison for the conviction.

His punishment will not be known until Judge James Marner sentences him weeks from now, likely after Oct. 12. Pima County Attorney Laura Conover said she will not seek a death penalty in the case.

Clements is set for trial in February for the disappearance and death of 6 year old Isabel Celis.

The prosecution conceded it did not have anyone who witnessed Christopher Clements put Maribel Gonzalez in his car and drive her away to her death.

The state’s case depended on the weight of circumstantial evidence—including pictures of young girls on Clements' iPads. Prosecutors said that suggested an obsession with young girls.

The night Maribel disappeared Clements argued with his girlfriend, and left the house. The prosecution’s cell phone tracking expert showed Clements' phone moving through Tucson at the time, and in the area where Maribel Gonzalez would have been walking to visit a friend.

Melissa Stark, the ex-girlfriend testified Clements came home about midnight, demanded bleach, took her car to go buy more bleach, then returned and wanted to be sure she had not looked in his car trunk while he was out.

She said he returned around dawn, immediately took a shower and ordered her to wash his clothes and use bleach to clean everyplace he had been since his return.

An electronics expert said for parts of the night Clements was using his phone with software that allowed him to listen to police radios.

Cell phone tracking showed shortly after midnight Clements phone headed north, probably up I-10, then spent an extended period connected to a cellphone tower that served the remote part of Avra Valley where Maribel’s body was found.

Medical examiners could not determine exactly what killed Maribel. There was no gunshot wound, no stab wounds, no sign of drug overdose. They suggested asphyxiation as a possible cause of death but said advanced decomposition interfered with ways to confirm that.

Clements' defense suggested the case might not be murder at all—that Maribel died of natural causes or undetected drug overdose and that someone had simply dumped her body where it was found.

DNA was an issue in the case. A sample recovered from Maribel Gonzalez body could not be read at 5 of 23 key locations. DNA expert witnesses said the sample was good enough to include Clements in a group of males who could have been the source of the sample, but that group could also include all males on the paternal side of Clements’ family and one-in-8600 males in the general population.

RELATED KGUN 9 TEAM COVERAGE OF CLEMENT'S TRIAL

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Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing craig.smith@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.