Man killed girlfriend, set fire on highway, deputies say

A man has been arrested after his girlfriend's remains were found in a burnt car last month on Interstate 75, deputies announced.

On the morning of October 15, Sarasota County deputies responded to a vehicle fire along I-75 in Osprey. They said they came across a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country minivan with a deceased female inside. The victim has since been identified as Kristen Kelley, 34. The driver, Michael Clark, 34, was her boyfriend for several years and had three children together.

Clark told deputies he didn’t know how the fire began, how the female died, or how he ended up Sarasota County, according to a media release. Investigators said it was determined the vehicle was intentionally set on fire after a gas can was found inside the van and lighter was found near the scene.

"He definitely beat her to death and then placed her body in the back of his own van. And then drove here to this place in Sarasota County on the interstate and then intentionally set fire to his own car with the mother of his children in the back," explained Sarasota Sheriff's Office Captain John Walsh.

The Medical Examiner’s Office concluded the victim’s cause of death was homicide. Detectives said Clark beat her to death before placing her in the back of the van. He then drove southbound on I-75 and eventually set the van on fire.

After the vehicle fire, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office seized his clothing for the investigation and found a small amount of cocaine.

On Thursday, Clark was arrested in Hillsborough County and charged with murder, arson, tampering with evidence and possession of cocaine.