Christina Carlin-Kraft was strikingly beautiful, with an enviable figure and a love of fashion, so it was no surprise she became a successful model.
The 36-year-old – a small-town girl from New Jersey – posed in tasteful lingerie and swimwear shoots, working her way up to appear in top magazines such as Vanity Fair and Maxim.
She also featured in campaigns for cosmetics companies and brands including Victoria’s Secret – and was a Playboy model, photographed at events with the late Hugh Hefner.
However, she did have a fiery personality, which got her in trouble in 2016 when she had a physical argument with the manager of a Manhattan restaurant over a bill.
Reports said she was drunk at the time and charges were dropped on the condition that she stay out of trouble for the next six months, which she did.
By 2018, Christina was engaged to her long-term boyfriend Alexander Ciccotelli. He had bought a condo in an affluent area in Ardmore, Philadelphia, for her to live in when they weren’t at their other home at the beach.
Christina hadn’t been at the condo for long when she told police a man had spiked her drink in a bar, then come back to her home and stolen some of her jewellery and designer bags.
The man, Andre Melton, was later found guilty of burglary, criminal trespassing, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property.
The incident shook Christina but she refused to shut herself away. And in the early hours of 22 August, she got a Lyft taxi – a ride-sharing service – into the bustling city centre.
Later that day, Alex arrived at the condo and couldn’t get in – it was dead-bolted from inside. Christina wasn’t answering her phone either. Worried, he called the police and they arrived to investigate.
When officers entered, they found Christina dead – her bloodied body lying beneath a blanket. Her nose was broken and her eyes were black from a brutal beating.
An autopsy revealed she had died of strangulation and because of her work with Playboy, her death quickly hit the headlines.
Police started piecing together Christina’s final movements. CCTV showed she met a man outside a pizza shop in the early hours and a Lyft driver confirmed they’d gone back to her apartment together. There was CCTV at the property showing them entering and the images were released to the public.
Several tip-offs led them to a suspect – Jonathan Harris, a man who had recently been released from prison after serving time for armed robbery. Records showed that in the early hours of 22 August, he’d messaged a friend to say he’d met a “sexy” woman and was at her house.
A hunt was launched for suspected drug dealer Harris, 30, who had fled across the state. After a week, he was caught as he got off a bus in Pittsburgh. When questioned, he didn’t deny going back to Christina’s flat, saying he’d met the model and she’d invited him back. Harris said they’d drunk some wine, done some cocaine and had consensual sex before he left.
Toxicology reports confirmed Christina had high levels of alcohol in her system, but there were no illegal substances and there were also no drugs in her home.
CCTV footage didn’t show Harris leaving the property either. When confronted with the inconsistencies in his story, he gave a different version of events. He said he went back with Christina and they drank wine and had sex – but then a fight started.
Harris claimed he’d brought an ounce of cocaine with him that Christina wanted but she’d refused to pay the $1,200 for it, saying she didn’t owe him any cash as she’d just had sex with him.
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Harris said Christina had hit him on the ear with a wine bottle and he’d struck back. “I slapped her in the face and she fell to the floor,” he told police. But there were no injuries to his head when he was arrested.
Describing the struggle that he claimed had ensued, he said he carried Christina to her bed and bound her hands so that she would stop hitting him. He said he then punched her when she continued to refuse to pay for the drugs. And then, according to his confession, he “began choking her” when she tried to call the police. “I panicked,” he said.
Harris said he covered Christina with the blanket before fleeing through the back door, at around 5am, and jumping from the balcony.
“I never meant for this girl to die,” he said. “When I left the apartment, she was not dead. I would do anything to take this back.”
But later, a man who stayed in a hospital bed in the same room as Harris shortly after the killings revealed he told him there’s “nothing like squeezing somebody and feeling the last breath leave their body”.
Harris was charged with murder. Despite going into detail about how he’d beaten and strangled her, he pleaded not guilty at the trial in May 2019. The defence argued he was “out of his mind” on cocaine, marijuana and K2 and didn’t know what he was doing – or that Christina was dead when he left.
“Everything was done out of panic,” his lawyers said.
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Christina’s family had to listen to a description of her final moments as his confessions were played. Harris admitted he left Christina so battered, he couldn’t look at her.
“I covered her with a blanket because I didn’t want to see her like that,” he said in a recording. “‘I knew she was hurt really bad.”
Harris didn’t testify and his lawyer called no witnesses – and did not dispute the confession. They just asked the jury to find him guilty of third-degree murder instead of first.
“This wasn’t a specific attempt to kill,” they said. “He didn’t go there for that. There was no evidence of that.”
The lawyer even suggested that Christina had invited him back simply to get cocaine for free.
But the prosecution argued that Harris’s version didn’t add up.
“His story was it was over cocaine but given the circumstances around this murder, it makes no sense that this was about drugs,” they said to the jury.
“Was it over sex? Was it over money? We don’t know because the only person who did know was killed in that bedroom that night.”
Why Christina took Harris home remains a mystery. The prosecution reminded the court there were no drugs in her system and of the violence she suffered. They said her last moments were terrifying as she’d been “beat, bound and strangled with intent”.
Harris’s chilling hospital boast was also used as evidence. “That statement says he was aware she was taking her last breath,” the prosecution told the jury, which heard it could have taken three minutes to choke the life out of Christina.
The jury deliberated for over five hours before finding Harris guilty of first-degree murder. He was also found guilty of kidnapping, possession of an instrument of a crime and strangulation. As he was led out of the court, he told reporters he felt that “justice was served”.
At the sentencing in August, Harris was given the automatic punishment of life without the chance of parole. He spoke to express his “deepest condolences” and blamed the drugs.
“I’m not looking for sympathy or making a plea for my life,” he said.
“I’m standing here, taking responsibility for the things I’ve done, and I’m willing to accept the punishment, even if it’s death. I cannot bring this person back, I cannot change the way you view me. But this was never my intention.”
Christina’s fiancé Alex, 43, said Harris had tried to slander her and during their 14-year relationship, she had never used drugs.
He urged him to tell the truth about their encounter, saying, “You killed a kind, loving, generous, amazing person who is sorely missed by everyone every day. You murdered a 115lb defenceless female. You destroyed the lives of so many people and inflicted needless pain on our family and your family, and for what?”
Christina’s devastated father, Stuart Kraft, said she was “the brightest light that ever lived”.
The judge added an additional 22-and-a-half to 45 years of consecutive time for the other charges. He said Harris deserved to spend the rest of his life in jail and he would send that message to governors and parole boards who might one day consider freeing him.
Tragically, while Christina had lived in a world of glamour and beauty, her final moments were as ugly as life can get.
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