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Life without parole in Isabel Celis murder

“The evil that lurked outside her window”
Posted: 5:50 PM, Apr 10, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-11 14:04:35-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For some people the kidnapping and killing of 6-year-old Isabel Celis is burned into their memory. It happened 12 years ago, but just imagine the terror of a girl who disappears from the family house and is never seen alive again.

Now we know the punishment for the man convicted in that murder.

There was no sign of Isabel Celis until five years after she disappeared, when Christopher Clements offered to take investigators to her in return for getting unrelated charges dropped. He said he didn’t kill her, but simply knew what he knew.

MORE: Clements sentenced to life, showed no remorse according to those in the courtroom

He took them to a small collection of bones in a remote part of Pima County. He became a suspect in two child deaths when a partial DNA match tied him to the remains of another girl found nearby: 13-year-old Maribel Gonzales.

Maribel Gonzalez, Isabel Celis
Maribel Gonzalez, left, and Isabel Celis

Isabel’s parents, Becky and Sergio, did not want to appear on camera as they spoke in court but their voices carry a grief that will not go away.

“The Bible speaks of God's wrath, and it has been shown to be great. He has hurt many many little ones, including my baby girl Isabel. Punishment in this world will never be enough for the amount of pain and suffering he has caused. God, Karma, Mother Earth, whatever you believe in. All of this has a way of making things right that no one can escape.”

~Becky Celis
“Myself, until the day I die, I will feel responsible for not doing my job and protecting my little girl from the evil that lurked outside her window.”

~Sergio Celis

The law allows Clements to speak. The Celis family had stepped out of the courtroom by the time he did. He claimed his innocence, complained Judge James Marner ran an unfair trial and compared him to dictators from history.

“I've read a lot of books about village hangings carried out by the Crown in the Middle Ages, Hitler's fascist government, Pol Pot and his ruthless Khmer Rouge regime. And yes, Joseph Stalin’s purges and show trials.”


Christopher Clements sentencing

Judge Marner gave Clements a sentence doubly sure to keep him behind bars: life without parole. That sentence does not begin until after the life without parole Clements got for killing Maribel Gonzalez.

Clements' lawyers are already planning an appeal.


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 or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.