After Kiera Bergman disappeared from their shared residence on Aug. 4, her boyfriend went on television to beg for her safe return.
“Kiera, if you can hear me, please come back,” Jon Christopher Clark, 23, said into the camera five days after the 19-year-old Phoenix woman vanished, reports local TV news station KSAZ.
Clark said the two had argued the last time he saw her. “I’m sorry. I know that me not having a job was a really big issue. I did get a job, I start on Monday,” he said. “Just come back. I’m not going to ask any questions. I’m not going to make assumptions. Just please come back, Kiera.”
Thirty days later, on September 3, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office found a body later identified as Bergman’s on a roadside west of the city.
On Tuesday, Phoenix police announced that Clark had been arrested on first-degree murder charges in her death. He faces additional charges of improper removal of a body and evidence tampering, according to a police statement.
“We believed from the beginning he was involved, but without any information we didn’t want to put him out there as a bad person without knowing some facts,” Bergman’s father, Chris Bragg, told Phoenix TV news station KNXV.
The victim’s mother, Kiersten Bragg, told the outlet: “I was relieved, and in a way, I’m happy. I pray that the situation opens up a lot of especially young women’s eyes to the dangers that are out there and that you think twice before you get involved with certain people.”
“I would hate to have to see other parents go through this,” she said. “It’s the worst feeling in the world.”
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Clark, who moved from California to the Phoenix area with Bergman, has been in custody since August 17, after a search of his car allegedly turned up forged documents and the personal information of several individuals, which police say were unrelated to Bergman’s case. According to the Phoenix police statement, he is charged with aggravated identity theft and forgery in addition to the charges in Bergman’s death.
Clark’s girlfriend disappeared on his birthday, he said in a video interview posted by the Arizona Republic.
At their residence on that Saturday, “we chilled,” he told reporters days after her disappearance. “She’s trying to keep me in good spirits ’cause it’s my birthday, but I was kind of sad ’cause we weren’t really doing anything. And then we just started getting into a little bickering and arguing, and then she got upset and then she left.”
After he did not hear from Bergman on Sunday and then she did not show up to her job on Monday, he said he was in contact with a friend of hers and urged a missing-person’s report to be filed, he said.
“Since I am her boyfriend, and I was the last one to be with her … her mom mainly just really wants to blame me for everything,” he said. “I had nothing to do with anything that’s going on. I love Kiera with all my heart. I want her to come home. Please come home, Kiera. I love you.”
Clark made a court appearance Tuesday night where his bond was set at $1 million, reports KSAZ.
It was unclear if he’d entered an initial plea to the charges in Bergman’s death or the other charges he faces. Attorney information for him was not immediately available.