Body identified as missing mom; boyfriend charged

August 1, 2011 3:04:22 PM PDT
The Harris County District Attorney's Office confirmed the body of a woman found over the weekend is that of Amber Elkins, the 20-year-old local mother who was missing for more than a week.

Investigators have already filed murder charges against her boyfriend, James David Clarke, Jr. On Monday morning, Elkins' boyfriend of one month appeared in court, charged with her murder.

The only two words James Clarke said in court Monday morning were "Yes, sir," after a judge asked him if he understood that he stands accused of the offense of murder. It was also the first time he was seen in person by Amber Elkins' family since her disappearance last week. Clarke was described in court as Elkins' boyfriend.

"There was a large amount of blood on the passenger floorboard of her vehicle," said prosecutor Mia Magness.

Prosecutors read details of the accusations against Clarke. The details were upsetting for Elkins family, who sat inside the courtroom just a few feet away from Clarke.

In the state's timeline of Clarke's actions, on July 25, one day after Elkins' car was found abandoned, Clarke allegedly told two people he shot and killed Amber Elkins, shooting her in inside her car, court documents state.

Clarke, says the state, allegedly placed Elkins' body in a duffle bag and inside his truck. Clarke allegedly abandoned the body as well as Elkins' car and his own truck. Records indicate Clarke's cell phone was in use in the area where Elkins' body was found.

Elkins' body was discovered Sunday in a wooded area along Gene Campbell Road in Montgomery County. The search for Elkins began on July 26, the same day her car was found in Humble. Elkins was last seen July 24 with Clarke.

According to investigators, the last person to hear from Elkins, indirectly, was her mother. She told investigators she had received a call from Amber's cell phone around 3:30am last Monday. When Amber's mother called her back at 10am, seven hours later, Clarke answered and hung up on her.

Investigators traced Clarke's cell phone to the area where a body was found over the weekend.

There was little visible reaction in court Monday morning, but there was one chilling moment when Clarke looked back at Elkins' family while he was being walked out of the courtroom. Clarke was handcuffed, but he and Amber's father appeared to lock eyes for a moment and time seemed to freeze.

Her family left the court without comment.

Elkins body was found Sunday by Texas Equusearch volunteers and identified Monday through fingerprints. The Montgomery County Medical Examiner ruled the manner of death to be a Homicide.

The family said Sunday they are focused on Elkins' 9-month-old daughter, who will grow up without her mother.

"Difficult, emotional, grueling day for the family, but they had to be here for their daughter Amber, and they definitely wanted to see the person that's accused of taking her life, in person," said crime victims' advocate Andy Kahan. "This is the beginning of a long journey for them, through the court system, lot of questions, answers that can't be answered right now. But they're here for their daughter and they're sticking together. This begins their journey through the system here today."

A cause of death has still not been determined, due to the state of decomposition of the body, investigators say.

Elkins missed a court date last week in a custody battle over her nine-month-old daughter, raising concerns for her family. Clarke is not the father of that baby.

Judge Kevin Fine raised Clarke's bond from $200,000 to $250,000. Prosecutors asked for the bond to be raised for several reasons. They say Clarke has at least six or seven felony convictions, they say he is affiliated with a gang and they believe he poses a flight risk. Over the past week, he told several people he needed a passport because he intended to flee to the Bahamas.

Clarke has requested a court-appointed attorney. His next court date has not yet been set.

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