Arrest made in murder of Playboy model in Philly suburbs

Police said on Wednesday the man they say strangled a model to death inside her Lower Merion apartment last week was arrested in Pittsburgh.

Christina Carlin-Kraft, 36, a model who was featured in Playboy, Maxim, Vanity Fair and Victoria’s Secret, was found dead from ligature strangulation on Aug. 22 in Ardmore.

Now, Johnathan Wesley Harris, 30, will face charges with first-degree and second-degree murder, as well as with taking items from the victim’s apartment on the 100 block of Sibley Avenue, just around the corner from Suburban Square, adjacent to the Ardmore train station.

“The beating was substantial,” said Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele in a press conference to announce the charges against Harris on Wednesday. “Her nose was broken, she had black eyes, she died from ligature strangulation. Something was put around her neck, and for somebody’s life to be taken by strangulation, it takes a long time and a lot of pressure, and that’s what happened in this case. It was a violent death.”

The warrant for Harris’ arrest was issued Wednesday. Law enforcement released surveillance images of him to the media caught from Kraft’s building, and received an anonymous tip identifying him, police said. U.S. marshals reportedly apprehended him that same day as he stepped off a bus in Pittsburgh. He will be extradited back to Montgomery County.

Harris allegedly sent a text message at 2:40 a.m. on Aug. 22 to a friend that Steele read, stating “You still up g? I just met this sexy a– white b—-, I’m at her crib in Ardmore.”

Christina Carlin-Kraft

Murder of Christina Carlin-Kraft

Steele declined to comment on a possible motive, but said the two met in Center City earlier that night. Kraft reportedly took a Lyft to 14th and Chestnut, and investigators found video of her meeting Harris nearby.

Carlin-Kraft, also known as Christina Kraft, willing re-entered her apartment with the suspect around 3 a.m., as caught on surveillance tape. Harris was not caught on tape leaving and is believed to have exited by balcony around 5:19 a.m. when a back door to the terrace was closed. Harris also allegedly stole unspecified items from her apartment. Kraft was found dead around 9:15 p.m. on Aug. 22 during a wellness check by police. 

“The victim was in Center City, the victim met him, and whether it was a chance meeting or something else, I can’t say, but they then got into some kind of transportation and we know that they came back and came to the apt on Sibley Avenue,” Steele said. “That didn’t appear to be a situation where she was being held by a gun or anything like that.”

Harris was reportedly released from prison in July. He was arrested just hours after her funeral near Ventnor, NJ, where she grew up.

Police also are seeking a suspect, Andre Melton, 31, wanted for a previous burglary of Kraft’s apartment, which she had reported to police – but claimed to not remember.

On Aug. 18, Kraft had also been in Center City, but told authorities she remembered nothing after having an espresso martini at the Sofitel Hotel, the Inquirer reported.

During that night, Kraft allegedly met with Melton, who returned to her apartment in a ride-sharing service. Kraft told police her next memory was waking up with several possessions missing. Surveillance video of the apartment lobby caught a male suspect leaving her building holding a box, presumably of her possessions.

Melton’s residence on the 6500 block of Theodore Street in Southwest Philly was searched by police, and several of Kraft’s stolen possession were recovered there, police say. Two other people in the house were also arrested on drug possession charges, but Melton remains wanted. He is believed to be driving a rented burgundy Kia Sorrento with Virginia plates.

Carlin-Kraft had reportedly moved into the apartment on Sibley Avenue just a week before her murder.

More from our Sister Sites