The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office charged a Hillsborough County man with Murder after connecting him with the suspicious death of his girlfriend.
The investigation began October 15 when deputies were called to a vehicle fire along I-75 in Osprey. When deputies arrived, they found a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country minivan with a deceased female inside. The driver, 34-year-old Michael Clark, told deputies he didn’t know how the fire began, how the female died or how he got to Sarasota. State investigators with the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations determined the vehicle was intentionally set on fire and with assistance from crime scene analysts, a gas can was recovered inside the van and a lighter was found nearby.
Further investigation by the Medical Examiner’s Office determined the victim’s cause of death was homicide caused by blunt force trauma. Detectives determined Clark beat the victim to death before placing her in the back of the van, driving southbound along I-75, and eventually setting the vehicle on fire. At the time of the incident, personnel seized Clark’s clothing for investigation and recovered a small amount of cocaine. He was transported to the hospital and later released while the investigation continued.
On Thursday, detectives working in partnership with Hillsborough County authorities, executed an arrest warrant and search warrant at Clark’s home. He was taken into custody and booked into the Orient Road Jail in Tampa. Sarasota County detectives charged Clark with Murder, Arson, Tampering with Evidence, and Possession of Cocaine. He remains in custody today without bond.
The victim was 34-year-old Kristen Kelley, Clark’s girlfriend of several years. The couple had three children in common.