Amberly Barnett, an 11-year-old once missing DeKalb County, Alabama girl, was remembered as a kind child who probably would have been famous some day.
Tragically, the child was found deceased, authorities announced on March 2, 2019, suspending the search for the girl, who vanished from a relative’s home the day before. The child’s full name was Amberly Alexis Barnett. She’s left behind a heartbroken family and community.
“Life is so fragile,” she wrote on her Instagram account. Amberly’s mother wrote a tribute to her on social media:
“In Loving Memory Of my Special Daughter,” it reads. “Heartfelt memories of my Daughter whose love was sweet and pure, to lose someone so precious is a pain that’s hard to endure. You were the jewel in our hearts you were loved in every way, now you’re gone, you’re truly missed each and every day…You always brought the sunshine and you brightened up our world, spreading happiness and kindness since you were a little girl. Amberly life is not the same now you’re no longer here, but our love for you is still strong and will remain year after year.”
A 33-year-old Alabama man, Christopher Madison, has been charged in her death, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office announced on February 4. Madison is accused of strangling Amberly to death. Her body was found in a wooded area about 200 yards behind his home, the sheriff’s office said. Few details about the case have been released as to not jeopardize the prosecution, the sheriff said.
“I am not at liberty to disclose any additional information concerning this case,” Sheriff Nick Welden said in a statement. “The road to justice for this sweet, innocent little girl is too important to release anything to jeopardize this investigation. I would like to thank our staff and all other departments that assisted on this case. This was a true joint effort, a team effort between multiple agencies who all worked tirelessly to help us get to this point.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Sheriff Said His Heart Was Shattered By the Girl’s Death
At a press conference on Monday, Sheriff Nick Welden told reporters that Christopher Wayne Madison, 33, is accused of strangling Amberly Barnett to death. That is based on an initial autopsy report that shows she was strangled, the sheriff said. Welden said Amberly’s body was found about 200 yards behind Madison’s home in a wooded area.
The death of the child hit the local sheriff hard. At the press conference, Welden said the previous days had been “extremely tiresome and emotional” for himself and his entire staff and those who assisted. “It is a very tragic event,” Welden said.
In a previous brief news conference, Welden said that, at around 6:30 a.m. on March 2, 2019, the “deceased body” of the child was located. He didn’t provide many details at that time, but he filled his press conference with religious reference.
He said: “We are diligently, diligently pursuing different avenues and Lord willing we will have answers in the coming days. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers as we move forward on this tragic event.”
Due to the circumstances, he said he would not be able to answer questions at this time. He said, “My heart is shattered on this date. But we will move forward….God bless you all.”
In an earlier news conference, the sheriff said it had been a long and tense night. At 7:30 p.m., the night before, the sheriff’s department received a call in reference to the missing child. They responded quickly. The search continued throughout the night, including in the State of Georgia. Forensic scientists also responded to the scene. “Please keep this family in your thoughts as we move forward,” he said.
2. Amberly Was Last Seen at Her Aunt’s Home
Amberly’s last known whereabouts were on March 1, 2019, a Friday. Authorities said she was last seen at her aunt’s home in Collinsville. The lone public clue: “A dark-colored SUV was reported in the area around the same time,” The New York Daily News reported.
Before Barnett was found, the Sheriff’s Department wrote: “MISSING: We’re currently searching for 11-year-old Amberly Lee Barnett. Amberly is 5’1″/98 lbs. Blonde Hair/Blue Eyes.”
“Amberly was last seen in the Mt. Vernon Community around 6 pm. If you may have seen her or know of her whereabouts, call us at (256)845-3801. We’re all hands on deck tonight to bring her home.”
3. Amberly’s Class Is Raising Money in Her Memory & She Was Remembered as a ‘Precious Soul’
A GoFundMe page has been created in Amberly’s memory. “CHS Class of 2009 is raising money in memory of our classmate’s daughter. All donations will go directly to the family of this sweet girl. Any and all donations would be greatly appreciated,” it reads.
A woman who donated wrote, “I donated because I met this beautiful angel when her Aunt brought her to Walmart where her Aunt & I work at. I am so upset and angry at the same time. My son asked me could we give money and my son don’t know her but my son & I have a heart. This breaks my heart so. I am praying for her family and may justice get served.”
Wrote one woman on Facebook: “Pray for the family…. it’s hard to understand why these things happen… Amberly was a precious soul….”
“My heart is breaking so much. My daughter attends this school and knew her,” commented a woman on the Sheriff’s Facebook page. “She said at their Valentine’s dance, she danced with this little girl to try to cheer her up and make her smile. My heart is heavy.”
4. Amberly’s Mother Says Her Daughter Would ‘Not Quit Fighting to Get Home’
Amberly Barnett’s mother, Jonie Barnett, has posted about Amberly on Facebook. “My baby girl has now been missing for 15 hours from Collinsville/sandrock from my sister house,” she wrote before the child was found.
“We need all your help for finding her. We have no idea who or where she is at. She had on a blue hoodie with yellow stripes on the sleeves and dark blue skinny jeans with white converse. If any one has any information on who has my baby call 911…please don’t call me with wanting to know any updates. I love you all for your help and support but I am flipping out and going insane not know who has or where my little girl is…”
She added that she “made sure that we show our kids to fight back, Never leave without telling anyone and anyone who knows Amberly, knows she would not have left without telling me or my sister. She’s to scared to get into any trouble. She would never leave her cell phone behind. She will fight if anyone try to do anything to her. She Is the type that gets mad and leave. She will not quit fighting to get back home. Please help find my baby.”
She also wrote: “Her phone was left behind and my baby takes it everywhere. Nothing in her phone indicated she was planning to leave! My sis had went to the store while her brother in law who was outside working on the house next door/same land and drive way. Amberly is the type to not do anything that she will get in trouble for. She is so scared of anyone being mad at her or getting in trouble. She would not have ran away or make plans to go off somewhere. A Green SUV was seen leaving the driveway! Please share and call 911 if you see or hear of anything. Please help bring my baby girl home. I beg you please help me me and Josh Hackney find our baby girl.”
Before she went missing, Jonie posted this photo and wrote, “I have to say that I have the prettiest daughter ever! She hacked her papas FB ?”
On February 24, 2019, Jonie, who had Amberly as a teenage mother, wrote: “Update: I have decided not to move my kids back this Monday to Georgia. I think that waiting until closer to the end of the school year so that it doesn’t mess up their grades and them end up being either ahead or behind if I was to move them with 3 Months left of school. #onlyDoingWhatIFeelIsBestForMyKids.” On February 8, she wrote on Facebook, “So everyone I know is either pregnant or going to jail or in jail and pregnant this year… Ummmmm am I missing something? What will I be?” On February 2, she wrote, “Me and my kids needs a place to go asap!”
Her page is filled with expressions of adoration for her children. “My babies is the only reason i will make it. God i live these 2 smiling, smart, BEAUTIFUL love bugs that i have the honor of calling my children,” she wrote in October 2018 along with a photo of Amberly and her brother. In one post, Jonie mentioned that her mother was murdered in 2011 and wrote “they got away with it.”
5. A Man Who Helped Raise Her Said Amberly Would Have Been Famous One Day
In a heartbreaking message, Josh Hackney wrote: “One of the nicest, sweetest, most kind little girls in the world. Everywhere she went she made people smile and I have no doubt in my mind she would have gotten famous one day. I wasnt her biological father. But she did call me daddy. I love you baby girl. Rest in peace.”
Amberly had an Instagram page but it only had 11 posts on it, mostly selfies. Her profile read, “?•life is so fragile•?. ?♀️?It’s Amberly so now what??♀️ ?Taken? ????GAMEZZZZ??????????????????????.”
Her most recent post was a selfie from the day before she vanished. “So I may go to the mall today and get some new cloths???,” she wrote. Another post discussed bullying. “Why do people lie to me and say oh your really pretty but a day latter they will turn there backs and tell other people that I’m ugly like what the heck ??’ like if your agents (sic) bullying’??” it read.