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Suspect in model’s strangulation death pleads not guilty

December 7, 2018

FILE - This combination of undated photos provided by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office in Norristown, Pa., shows Jonathan Harris, of Johnstown, Pa. Harris, accused of strangling a model in one of Philadelphia's affluent suburbs pleaded not guilty Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, to murder charges, days after a suspect in the burglary of her apartment was taken into custody. (Montgomery County District Attorney's Office via AP, File)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man accused of strangling a model in an affluent Philadelphia suburb pleaded not guilty Friday to murder charges, days after a suspect in the burglary of her apartment was taken into custody.

Jonathan Harris appeared in a Montgomery County courtroom over the August killing of Christina Carlin-Kraft.

Officials have said Carlin-Kraft took a ride-hailing service to Philadelphia, met 31-year-old Harris and the two later returned to her Ardmore apartment. Carlin-Kraft’s beaten body was found in her bloodstained bedroom by police who had been called to check on her.

A detective testified in October that Harris told him he intended to sell Carlin-Kraft cocaine, but she refused to pay and a fight ensued.

According to the warrant filed in Harris’ arrest, the two met in downtown Philadelphia just hours before her death early Aug. 22. There was no evidence they previously knew each other.

Harris’s trial is scheduled for May 6.

His attorney, Charles Peruto Jr., said he won’t comment, adding “it’s best if I do all the talking in court.”

Carlin-Kraft’s modeling profile lists photo shoots for Vanity Fair, Victoria’s Secret, Playboy and Maxim.

Earlier this week, police arrested a man suspected of burglarizing Carlin-Kraft’s home, a crime authorities have said was unrelated to her killing days later. Andre Melton, 31, was arrested in Philadelphia after a months-long manhunt.

“He is not being investigated for the homicide, he’s solely being charged with the burglary and theft,” said Melton’s attorney, Lawrence Bozzelli, adding he couldn’t comment further.

Carlin-Kraft reported a burglary at her apartment on Aug. 18. She told investigators she had taken a Lyft to a Philadelphia hotel bar. After that, Carlin-Kraft said she remembered nothing.

She told police she woke up the next morning in her apartment “extremely sick” with “no recollection of what occurred,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported .

She noticed several items missing, including credit cards, jewelry and designer purses.

Surveillance footage shows Carlin-Kraft returning to her apartment early on Aug. 18 with a man police believe was Melton, according to the Inquirer. She seemed unsteady on her feet, and he supported her. The apartment is in one of the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia. The area historically was home to sprawling estates belonging to Philadelphia’s social elite, and its communities are still some of the wealthiest in the country.

Melton was arraigned late Thursday and charged with burglary, criminal trespass, and receiving stolen property.

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