TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – The trial of accused Tucson child killer 40-year-old Christopher Clements continued Wednesday, Sept. 21, with more testimony.
So far, the state has called 20 witnesses to the stand. Prosecutors are expected to rest their case on Thursday, Sept. 22.
Clements is facing several charges for allegedly kidnapping and killing 6-year-old Isabel Celis in 2012 and 13-year-old Maribel Gonzalez in 2014.
The current trial is for Maribel’s death, while Clements will face a jury for Isabel’s death next year.
The trial started two weeks ago with jury selections but kicked into high gear last week with opening statements and witness testimony. Links to our previous stories are below.
WEEK TWO: WEDNESDAY TESTIMONY
On Wednesday, Maribel’s mother Valerie Calonge was absent from the courtroom. It’s the first day Calonge did not attend the trial. She has testified and has been visibly upset by crime scene photos shown in court. Maribel’s grandmother and father were in court again, along with other loved ones and victim advocates.
Wednesday morning, the state called its 16th witness to the stand. Marie Yocum is a latent print examiner for Pima County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD). Yocum estimates she has compared over 1,600 fingerprint impressions during her employment with the PCSD.
When asked by the prosecution if two people can have the same fingerprint, Yocum replied, “Everyone is born with the same fingerprint they will have their whole life. It’s very unique and discerning. We have never discovered two people having the same fingerprint. That includes identical twins; they may have similar details, but the overall pattern is different.”
Yocum testified the fingerprints found on two letters, dated in May and June of 2017, matched Clements and his former girlfriend, Melissa Stark.
In one of the letters, Clements referred to Maribel Gonzalez by name.
The 17th witness for the state was a retired digital forensic examiner. Russell Blaylock said he searched Clements’ iPad, MacBook and iPhone while working for the Tucson Police Department (TPD).
Clements had the “My Secret” app on his devices, according to Blaylock. It’s a password protected folder. A security feature also takes a forward-facing photo when a wrong password is entered.
Five security photos were taken of Clements and one of Stark. The prosecution argued Clements was the one using the app because shortly after a security photo of him was taken, more images were added to the folder.
The secret folder on Clements’ iPad contained 1,247 images, Blaylock said. 22 were screenshots with website information. Those photos came from preteenmodels.org, nonudes.biz, underageladies.com, nonudepreteenmodel.com, littlemodel.com and tinymodels.biz.
The images saved were of women and young girls, according to Blaylock. Photos of children playing at the beach, on the playground and in bathtubs were recovered. Blaylock testified some of the girls were wearing little clothing or none.
The images were submitted to the jury as evidence but were not shown in court as child erotica is prohibited.
On another iPad, the “My Secret” app revealed 189 images. Photos were first uploaded in August of 2013, Blaylock said.
Some of the pictures were shown in court on Wednesday. They were of young children, mostly girls, taken at different locations in Tucson. The courtroom was shown photos of kids half-dressed in a backyard (seemingly taken over a fence), a girl filling up a plastic tub with a garden hose in a front yard, another young girl sitting on the front steps of a home, a young girl on the sidewalk (seemingly taken from inside of a car), girls in stores and playing near a home. In one photo series, the person taking the pictures appears to be approaching a young girl. She is seen lifting her shirt slightly and appears to be within a few feet from the person taking the photo.
FBI Special Agent Patrick Cullen, who was the state’s 18th witness, also searched Clements’ electronic devices.
Cullen said Clements’ laptop showed 10 hits for “Maribel Victoria,” and 16 hits for “Maribel Gonzalez.” In some cases, her name was searched, Cullen testified. In other cases, her name came up in news articles and websites.
There were 25 google searches of “Valerie Calonge,” Cullen said, and 6 hits for “murdered children.”
In October of 2014, “body found in desert” was searched on one of the devices. “Trace evidence found on body,” “Tucson teen was murdered” and “East Lawn gravesite hours” were also searched.
On Clements’ iPhone, “Maribel Gonzalez” was searched in January of 2016, according to the FBI agent. Clements’ phone also shows our KOLD News 13 story, “Unsolved murder still haunts grieving mother,” was visited that same month.
When a juror asked if it’s possible Stark made any of the searches, Cullen replied, “It’s impossible to know who made the searches. We just know the searches were made from these devices.”
Cullen also said Clements’ phone shows he was listening to 5-0 Radio, which is an online police scanner, the night of Maribel’s disappearance. Clements had the scanner app open until 11:51 p.m. on June 3, 2014. He then re-opened the app in the early morning hours of June 4, Cullen said. It wasn’t the first or last time Clements used the app, according to Cullen.
Two mothers also took the stand on Wednesday, bringing the state’s witness count to 20.
The two women testified they were notified by law enforcement that Clements had photos of their children on his computer. One mother said she had never met Clements before, and claimed her daughter was 5 years old when the photos were taken of her outside of an apartment.
The other mother said she went on a date with Clements once, and said he must have taken a photo of her and her son from her Facebook page as she did not send it to him.
DISAPPEARED IN THE DESERT
KOLD has been covering the case for years. In 2021, we released an award-winning podcast called Disappeared in the Desert.
CLEMENTS’ CRIMINAL HISTORY
- In 1993, Clements was accused of molesting a very young child but was never charged.
- In 1998, he was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse in Oregon.
- In 2002, he was convicted of identity theft and assault in Washington.
- In 2006, he was convicted of failure to register as a sex offender in Florida.
- In 2007, he was convicted of failure to register as a sex offender in Oregon.
- In late 2007, he was charged with false reporting in Tucson after allegedly giving a police officer a fake name.
- In 2011, he registered as a sex offender and was living at a home in the 1900 block of South Craycroft Road.
- In 2012, he registered as a sex offender and was living at a home in the 5800 block of East Elida Street.
- In 2013, he was charged with living too close to a school as a sex offender.
- In 2015, he was arrested on charges of pimping and child abuse but the charges were later dismissed.
- In June 2016, he was arrested in connection with a burglary in Tucson.
- In January 2017, he was arrested in connection with a burglary in Maricopa County.
- In February 2017, he contacts the FBI alleging he has information on Isabel Celis’ body.
- In March 2017, he leads federal agents to human remains near North Trico and West Avra Valley roads. DNA testing revealed the remains are from Isabel Celis.
- In September 2018, he was indicted on 22 counts in connection with the deaths of Isabel Celis and Maribel Gonzalez. He would later plead not guilty to all charges.
- In April 2022, he was convicted in the Maricopa County burglary case.
- In June 2022, he was sentenced to more than 30 years for the Maricopa County burglary case.
- In September 2022, he went on trial for the death of Maribel.
- In February 2023, he is set to go on trial for the death of Isabel.
ISABEL CELIS TIMELINE
- April 20, 2012: Isabel Mercedes Celis went to bed in her bedroom.
- April 21, 2012: Around 8 a.m., family members call 911 after they discover she is not in the house.
- April 22, 2012: FBI search dogs arrive from Virginia to aid in the search.
- April 23, 2012: Celis family and 88-CRIME post a $6,000 reward.
- March 2017: Human remains were discovered near North Trico and West Avra Valley roads in rural Pima County.
- March 31, 2017: DNA analysis confirms remains are those of Isabel Celis.
- Sept. 15, 2018: Authorities announce the indictment of Christopher Matthew Clements in Isabel’s death.
MARIBEL GONZALEZ TIMELINE
- June 3, 2014: Maribel Gonzalez leaves home to walk and visit a friend.
- June 4, 2014: Gonzalez was reported missing by her family after she failed to come home.
- June 6, 2014: Human remains were discovered near North Trico and West Avra Valley roads in rural Pima County.
- June 20, 2014: DNA analysis confirms remains are those of Maribel Gonzalez.
- Sept. 15, 2018: Authorities announce the indictment of Christopher Matthew Clements in Maribel’s death.
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