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Defense urges separate trials in Tucson child murders

Isabel Celis and Maribel Gonzalez deaths
Posted at 8:07 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 23:07:09-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Attorneys for Christopher Clements, the man charged in the murders of six-year-old Isabel Celis and 13 year old Maribel Gonzalez are trying to have the cases broken into separate trials.

Six-year-old Isabel Celis and 13-year-old Maribel Gonzalez disappeared about two years apart. Maribel Gonzalez body was found three days after she was reported missing. Five years went by before the remains of Isabel Celis were found and identified. Because they were juveniles the attorneys refer to the girls as I-C and M-B.

Christopher Clements was not in court for this latest hearing.

Prosecutors say the two cases tie together and tie to Christopher Clements because when Clements tried to bargain his way out of some unrelated charges, he led investigators to Celis remains in a remote part of Avra Valley.

They were less than a mile from where Maribel Gonzalez body was found. Investigators say they found traces of Clements DNA on the older girl’s body.

Clements attorneys are trying to convince Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini it’s not fair to try Clements for both murders in one trial. They argue Clements wants to testify in his own defense in the Celis case.

Defense attorney Joseph DiRoberto says, “It’s imperative that he testify in counts one through three. He has to explain how he led investigators to I-C’s remains back in 2017. He has to explain that. He has to take the stand and explain that.”

But if he does testify, and the two murders are in one trial, he would be vulnerable to prosecutors’ questions in Maribel Gonzalez murder while he’s on the witness stand.

Prosecutors argue similar crimes and similar locations for the remains tie the case together.

Judge Bernini did not rule right away. She will take some time to decide on the issue of separate trials and on a separate issue on what evidence jurors will be able to consider.