After a series of delays in bringing the case to trial, a judge has dropped murder charges against Jon Clark, the ex-boyfriend of Kiera Bergman, whose body was discovered on September 4th, 2018, in a rural desert area in Buckeye, AZ roughly 30 miles west of Phoenix. The 19-year-old had been missing since August of that year.
The judge cited “extreme negligence” on the part of prosecutors and Phoenix police in his ruling, including the failure of those departments to disclose exculpatory evidence in a timely manner, and their failure to follow up on an anonymous tip. The Silent Witness tipster claimed they saw Bergman two weeks after she disappeared.
Bergman moved from her home in San Diego, California to Phoenix in early 2018 to be close to Clark, then 23. Friends and family remembered her as funny, talented, and extremely loyal, and led an effort to bring her disappearance to the attention of national media.
Police initially arrested Clark on suspicion of forgery and identity theft. Bank records confirmed that on the day Bergman disappeared, Clark withdrew $500 from her bank account and then used her debit card to pay for gasoline. He was later indicted on charges of first degree murder. Court records detailed witness-supported allegations that Clark had a history of abusing Bergman, including instances in which he restrained her by putting his hand on her chest and throat. Cell phone records also placed Clark at Bergman’s apartment shortly before she went missing.
Bergman’s father, Chris Bragg was upset by the ruling, telling the Phoenix ABC News affiliate, "I’m angry, I’m very upset. Just that this guy is out and walking the streets right now.”
Because the case is still open, the Maricopa County Attorney’s office can still re-indict Clark. However, it’s unlikely that any such indictment will come soon, as grand juries are unable to convene during the Covid-19 pandemic. Clark is still under court supervision on the forgery and identity theft charges.