The boyfriend of the 19-year-old El Cajon teen missing for weeks before her body was discovered decomposing in the Arizona desert pleaded not guilty to her murder Friday.
Jon-Christopher Clark, 23, is accused of killing and dumping Kiera Bergman's body on a well-traveled rural highway.
Bergman was found dead Sept. 3 by a bike rider who spotted her remains near Arizona state Route 85 and Hazen Road in Maricopa County, about 45 minutes away from her apartment.
Eight days later, homicide investigators announced that they have developed probable cause to recommend charges of first-degree murder against Bergman's boyfriend.
Bergman was last seen alive on Aug. 4 leaving her home without her money, purse or car. Bergman sent a text message to her roommate at about 12:45 p.m. that day. It was the last time friends or family had heard from her.
Homicide investigators had suspected foul play in Bergman's disappearance.
A 15-page probable cause statement filed by the Phoenix Police Department lists a history of domestic disputes that left bruises on Kiera Bergman’s body.
It also documents a possibility of a pregnancy; a farewell letter typed out on the defendant’s phone and evidence of Kiera’s phone hitting the same WiFi router as the defendant’s, days after she had been reported missing.
Bergman’s family told NBC 7 after Clark's arrest the couple met on Tinder and dated for about a year, but the relationship was troubled from the start.
"I didn't like him from the beginning,” said Kiera’s father, Chris Bragg. “He didn't shake my hand and wouldn't look me in the eye. So I knew then this wasn't the person I wanted my daughter with."
Bergman’s family told NBC 7 the couple met on Tinder and dated for about a year. Bergman, who was raised in the unincorporated area of El Cajon, had relocated to Phoenix, following Clark, her family said.
Clark, her on-again, off-again boyfriend, followed her to Arizona but was unable to find employment.
The couple had a history of domestic disputes, and on at least one occasion prior to her death, Kiera had bruises on her body caused by the defendant, according to the document.
Clark has been charged with first-degree murder, improper removal of a body and tampering with physical evidence.
Before she died, Kiera told a witness Clark would restrain her when they fought by placing one hand against her upper chest and throat, the document says.
On the morning of Kiera’s disappearance, Aug. 4, Clark drove her to work. Police say she discussed the possibility of being pregnant with a coworker and then texted Clark to pick her up because she was not feeling well.
When the couple arrived home, they argued. Just before 1 p.m., Clark texted a friend that Kiera had stormed out of the apartment, so he could pack his belongings and leave.
Kiera’s roommate arrived home and found it unusual that Kiera would have left behind her car and purse, which contained her ID and bank card, according to the probable cause statement.
While Kiera’s roommate was in the shower, she received a text message from Kiera’s phone stating:
“Girl my phone is about to die but I’m (expletive) done with Jon. I met this guy a couple days ago when I went to the store and I asked him to come pick me up so I’m just chilling with him at his house smoking. I’ll call you when I get a charger. And make sure Jon leaves!”
The text message is documented in the statement police submitted to the court. The document says the roommate found it particularly odd because of its length and language.
Police say while Kiera’s roommate was in the shower, several text messages were exchanged between Clark and Kiera’s phone. The conversation shows Clark asking for permission to use Kiera’s bank card to withdrawal $500 from her checking account.
“Kiera had placed just enough money into her account on Aug. 3, 2018 to cover the upcoming rent withdraw from her account and would not have had $500 in her account for removal without defaulting on the rent payment,” the probable cause statement says.
Police said Clark had a history of accessing Kiera’s personal accounts like her Facebook, her bank account, withdrawing money using her pin, and sending text messages from her phone.
That same afternoon, around 2 p.m., Clark withdrew $500 from Kiera’s checking account in two withdrawals, the document states.
Police accessed data transfer information from a cell phone company showing that Clark was in Kiera’s apartment again at 7 p.m. that night and then again at 9:55 p.m. The document says police cannot account for Clark’s whereabouts between 7 p.m. to 9:55 p.m. on the Saturday Kiera went missing.
The following Monday, Clark called police just before 8 a.m. to report her missing.
Even though it was two and a half hours before her shift started, Clark told the dispatcher Kiera “was going to miss work. I decided to call police,” the document says.
He also told the dispatcher “her friend said she was going to meet up with somebody and chill and smoke.” But Kiera’s roommate told police she never shared this detail with Clark, according to the court documents.
Search warrants revealed Clark and Kiera’s phone accessed the same WiFi router in Kiera’s apartment when the texts between their phones were exchanged about Clark withdrawing money from her bank account. They also show the text to Kiera’s roommate, about Kiera going to meet up with someone, came from within their own home.
On Aug. 7, a Tuesday and four days after Kiera had gone missing, and while Kiera’s family begged police for answers about her disappearance, both Clark and Kiera’s phones were hitting the same WiFi router in an apartment, the search warrants revealed.
Police say shortly before the activation on Kiera’s phone, Clark was having a conversation on Instagram with a friend about the “Find my Phone” application and how police could use it to find Kiera.
On Sept. 3, a biker discovered Kiera’s body in a remote area off the main roadway for traffic from San Diego along Interstate 8 to Interstate 10 into Phoenix.
Police say Clark typed out Instagram posts and letters, such as a farewell letter, on his phone in the Notes section.
In one such note, he wrote: “So to all Kiera’s family that still wants to look at me negatively, you better have this same energy when Kiera comes home because we will spend the rest of our lives together and I will never forget the way you’re treating me.”
After Kiera’s body was discovered, Clark refused to answer any more questions from police without an attorney.
Kiera’s mother has spent the last few weeks in Phoenix searching for answers in her daughter’s disappearance.
She said her daughter had just turned 19 over the summer and she had concerns when Kiera and Clark met on a dating app in November 2017, she said.
“I pray that this situation opens up a lot of, especially young women’s eyes to the dangers that are out there and that you should think twice before you get involved with certain people,” said Kiersten Bragg.
Editor's Note on May 9, 2019: This story previously stated Bergman chose to go to Arizona for an employment opportunity and that Clark followed her have been removed. Her family says Bergman followed Clark to Arizona. NBC 7 has changed the story and regrets the error.