Day 4 of murder trial : Christopher Clements’ phone shows “unusual activity” the night of Maribel Gonzalez’ disappearance, consistent with being in the area her body was found
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The first murder trial of accused Tucson child killer 40-year-old Christopher Clements continued Friday, Sept. 16, with the state calling two more witnesses to the stand.
Clements is facing several charges for allegedly kidnapping and killing 6-year-old Isabel Celis in 2012 and 13-year-old Maribel Gonzales in 2014. The current trial is for Maribel’s death. Clements will face a jury for Isabel’s death next year.
The trial started last week with jury selections but kicked into high gear Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with opening statements and witness testimony.
On Friday, about a dozen of Maribel’s family and friends packed into the courtroom again. Her mother, father and grandmother have been present every day of the trial so far.
As he has every day, Clements entered the courtroom in a surgical mask and had his attorney Joseph DiRoberto tie his tie.
The 12th witness, a data expert, took the stand for the state.
Sy Ray, the director of LexisNexis, testified on his knowledge about the value of cellular records in criminal investigations.
Ray looked at AT&T records of Clements’ phone primarily in June of 2014, but also several other months before and after. Ray looked at roughly 200,000 device connections from Clements’ phone.
Ray testified the data indicates a “unique pattern” from June 3 to June 4.
Clements’ phone was traveling, closely matching the stories of previous witness testimony.
“This is the only time I saw the device leave the Tucson area, hang out in the desert for a couple hours, go off the network and re-appear around Tucson,” said Ray. “If I looked at this with no background knowledge, I would have looked at this as an ‘area of interest.’”
Ray worked in law enforcement for decades in Arizona before creating his own company in 2013 called ZetX, which uses phone records to track a person’s location. Ray says ZetX has mapped millions of phone calls and data usage in the U.S. and can pinpoint someone’s general location with about a 96% accuracy rate.
Ray testified about the movements of Clements’ phone the night Maribel went missing into the following morning.
On June 3, 2014, Ray said the phone was located at Clements’ home until about 9:39 p.m., then moved south to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base area. Maps provided in court showed the device moving toward the Tucson International Airport. It was located near Valencia Road or Tucson Boulevard from about 10:30 p.m. until after 11 p.m.
By 11:39 p.m., the phone appeared to be moving into the area of his home, at 5826 Elida Street, with some movement in that area before moving north, then northwest along I-10.
By 12:39 a.m., Ray said the device clearly slowed down in the general Avra Valley area.
Because the cellphone range is a lot larger in rural areas, Ray said it’s hard to tell exactly where the phone was in Avra Valley, whether it was on I-10 or just west of it.
Ray says Clements is moving, possibly slowly, in that rural area until 2:27 a.m. That’s when the device is powered off.
It returns online at 6:43 a.m. near I-10 and speedway. The device is back home just before 7 a.m.
At 8:45 a.m., the phone travels south to the same area it visited the night before just north of Davis Monthan.
At 9:55 a.m., the device returns at the residence and remains there for the rest of the day.
“This is the only time I saw the device leave the Tucson area, hang out in the desert for a couple hours, go off the network and re-appear around Tucson,” said Ray. “That was a unique pattern. If I looked at this with no background knowledge, I would have looked at this as an area of interest.”
According to Ray, the device is consistent with being in the area where Maribel’s body was found.
On June 5, 2014, the device leaves the home at 12:56 p.m. and arrives in Phoenix at 3:05 p.m. It leaves Phoenix at 11:10 p.m. and arrives back at the residence after midnight.
At around the time Ray showed Clements’ phone’s location near Avra Valley, Maribel’s mother left the courtroom in tears, but came back minutes later.
Ray’s testimony to this point matches up with testimony by Clements’ former girlfriend, Melissa Stark, who said they had a fight that evening and Clements left sometime after 8 p.m. She said he returned at around midnight asking for bleach then left again for several hours. She claims he did not follow through with plans and stayed home all day to sleep on June 4. On June 5, she says he insisted they go to Phoenix.
When the defense asked, “Is it possible Mr. Clements’ phone may have never exited I-10 on June 4?” Ray responded, “I would say that is impossible.”
Ray explained a person would have to exit I-10 to return to Tucson. Unless they are doing U-turns in the median the whole time, Ray said it doesn’t add up with the activity collected from the phone. He also said that would mean the device stayed out on I-10 for at least several hours, which is not consistent with normal freeway driving.
Detective Miguel Flores, with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, then took the stand. He is the 13th witness for the state.
Det. Flores interviewed Clements on Aug. 15, 2017, about Maribel’s murder.
In a video shown in court, Clements was shown a picture of Maribel and asked if he recognized her. Clements responded, “No. Well, I don’t know. Maybe I have [seen her], maybe I haven’t.”
When Clements was asked about why he thinks he might have seen her, he responded, “I don’t know if I want to answer questions. Do you think I murdered her, or do you think I know something that has something to do with this?”
He then proceeded to deny any connection with “any homicide.” Clements claimed he did not rape or kill Maribel.
Clements also denied knowing Maribel’s mother.
Detectives then had Clements read a search warrant for his DNA, and he asked what would happen if he refused. Flores said he could face prosecution for his refusal.
Clements called the court order a “witch hunt,” and speculated authorities could tamper with his DNA sample, or “make it match something.”
After the officers left, another investigator can be seen walking in on the video. The investigator said authorities took his DNA from a soda can he had previously drank from, but said that sample would take longer to test. Police told Clements they didn’t want to have to “strap him down in the chair to draw his blood,” but added they were going to get his DNA as ordered by the court.
After a long argument, Clements ultimately agreed to give a cheek swab in exchange for a cigarette.
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- Psychic weighs in on disappearance of Celis
- Police: CPS had previous contact with Celis family
- Father of juvenile prank callers apologizes to Celis family
- Neighbor heard male voices near Celis home the morning of her disappearance
- Maribel Gonzales’ father talks after body found in desert
- Friends react to Maribel Gonzales’ suspicious death
- Police: Maribel Gonzales was murdered
- Deeply saddened but not broken, murder victims’ families speak out
- Christopher Clements indicted in deaths of Isabel Celis and Maribel Gonzales
- Documents reveal chilling details into Isabel Celis, Maribel Gonzales investigation
- Murder suspect Christopher Clements had multiple run-ins with Tucson police
- Clements pleads not guilty in deaths of Isabel Celis, Maribel Gonzales
- New documents reveal details in the murder of two Tucson girls
- Documents detail hours, days and weeks after the disappearance of Isabel Celis
- Best friend of Maribel Gonzales remembers her on graduation day
- State will not seek death penalty for man accused of killing Isabel Celis, Maribel Gonzales
- ONLY ON KOLD: Video of interrogation of accused child killer Christopher Clements
- ONLY ON KOLD: FBI interrogation videos shows deal accused child killer tried to make with special agents
- Prosecutors argue photo proves Christopher Clements kidnapped, killed Isabel Celis
- Clements convicted of burglary in Maricopa County
- Clements, accused Tucson child killer, gets prison time in Maricopa County burglary case
- High profile murder case starts in Tucson
- Jury seated for Clements first murder trial
- Opening statements delivered in Clements murder trial
- Victim’s mother takes stand in Clements trial
- Former girlfriend os accused child killer continues testimony
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 and Maribel. 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 GONZALES TIMELINE
- June 3, 2014: Maribel Gonzales leaves home to walk and visit a friend.
- June 4, 2014: Gonzales 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 Gonzales.
- Sept. 15, 2018: Authorities announce the indictment of Christopher Matthew Clements in Maribel’s death.
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