ARIZONA NEWS

Man already serving life sentence convicted of killing Tucson girl who vanished from parents’ home

Mar 1, 2024, 5:00 PM

(Facebook Photo/Tucson Police Department)...

(Facebook Photo/Tucson Police Department)

(Facebook Photo/Tucson Police Department)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A man already serving a life sentence for the 2014 death of an Arizona teenager was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder in the killing of another Tucson girl years earlier.

Pima County Superior Court jurors also found Christopher Clements, 42, guilty of kidnapping and burglary in the death of Isabel Celis, who was 6 when she vanished from her parents’ home in 2012.

Clements is scheduled to be sentenced March 25.

Jurors began deliberating Tuesday in Clements’ retrial, which began Feb 7. Jurors in the earlier trial failed to reach a verdict last year, prompting a mistrial.

Clements became a suspect in Celis’ death in 2017, when he told FBI agents that he could lead them to the girl’s remains — but said he had nothing to do with her death — in exchange for having charges in an unrelated burglary case dropped, Tucson police said.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Deputy County Attorney Tracy Miller told jurors it was no coincidence that no one except Clements found Celis in the five years she was missing, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

“He doesn’t come forward unless there is something to gain,” Miller said. “There’s no other person it could be.”

Clements’ attorney, Eric Kessler, told jurors that nothing linked Clements to the crime and police couldn’t prove he entered the home, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Clements was arrested in 2018 in the deaths of Celis and 13-year-old Maribel Gonzalez, who disappeared in June 2014 while walking to a friend’s house.

Gonzalez’s body was found days later in a remote area north of Tucson. Celis’ remains were discovered years later in the same general area.

Clements was sentenced to natural life in prison in 2022 for kidnapping and killing Gonzalez. Jurors in Clements’ retrial weren’t told of that conviction or his history of convictions for sex crimes in several states dating back to when he was 16.

Celis’ mother and brother were both in the courtroom Thursday but left after the verdict was read, according to Tucson TV station KOLD.

A call to Kessler seeking comment on the verdict was not immediately returned.

Miller told KOLD that the “jury did a great job sorting through all of the evidence and all of the info we had to reach what we believe was the right result.”

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Man already serving life sentence convicted of killing Tucson girl who vanished from parents’ home