HOUSTON - A man charged in connection with the death of a missing woman appeared before a judge Monday, on the same day officials positively identified a body as that of Amber Elkins.
James David Clarke, 31, was charged with murdering Amber Elkins, 20. She was last seen alive on July 24, and her vehicle was found abandoned on Homestead Road on Tuesday.
Harris County sheriff's deputies said a significant amount of blood was inside Elkins' vehicle, and the front passenger window was broken.
Texas EquuSearch volunteers searched an area along Gene Campbell Road near F.M. 1314 in Montgomery County Sunday after getting information about cellphone towers. They found a woman's body in a wooded area at 3:30 p.m. The Harris County Sheriff's Office positively identified the body as Elkins on Monday afternoon. The cause of death was ruled a homicide.
"It was dumped in an isolated area," Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller said.
During Clarke's arraignment, prosecutors said Clarke shot Elkins in the head in her vehicle, stuffed her body in a duffel bag, put the duffel bag into his pickup truck and then dumped her body.
Prosecutors said Clarke told two women, including one of his ex-girlfriends, that he killed Elkins.
Elkins' family said she had been dating Clarke for about a month.
Elkins had a 9-month-old daughter with Frank Ferrata. He said that they lived together in Midway, Texas, but she moved back to Humble about a month ago.
Clarke's bond was set at $250,000. The judge ruled that if Clarke bonds out, he may not have any contact with Elkins' family, he may not leave Harris County and he must surrender his passport. Prosecutors said a witness told them that Clarke had planned to flee to the Bahamas.
Clarke has a criminal history that includes 15 convictions on charges of robbery, car theft, assault, trespassing, evading officers and drug possession over a nine-year period. He has been out of jail for four months. Officials said Clarke appeared in court in February on a charge of assaulting another woman. In that case, Clarke was accused of smashing a car window and the shards of glass cut the victim. Clarke served a month and a half in jail and was released in March.
"Finally, it looks like his criminal career has caught up with him because the violence appeared to be escalating," said Andy Kahan with HPD's Victim Services Unit. "It looked like he was a train wreck ready to happen."
Elkins' family members said they did not know of Clarke's criminal past and met him only once.
"When the family and I were discussing his prior history, they were pretty stunned and shocked," Kahan said.
Elkins' mom, Shani Kilpatrick, said her daughter would never go a day without letting someone know where she was. Kilpatrick said her phone rang at 3:30 a.m. July 24, but she missed the call because she was sleeping. When she woke up later that morning, she realized it was her daughter, so she called her back.
"I called her back and a guy answered, I asked where Amber was and he hung up." said Kilpatrick. "She would only call me at 3:30 in the morning if something was wrong. That's why I know something was wrong."
Kilpatrick later said that the man to whom she talked was Clarke.
Anyone with information regarding Elkins' case is asked to call the HCSO Homicide Unit at 713-967-5810, or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
A memorial fund has been set up to help with funeral expenses. Donations can be made at any Woodforest Bank and should be listed as "on behalf of Amber Elkins."
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