Christopher Madison is the suspect accused in the death of Amberly Barnett, an 11-year-old girl, who was found dead only hours after she went missing from her aunt’s home in DeKalb County, Alabama. The 33-year-old Madison was arrested March 4 and charged with capital murder, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office announced in a press release.
Authorities said on March 2, 2019, that they were suspending the search for the girl, who vanished from a relative’s home the day before. Then, they released the heartbreaking news that Amberly’s body was found. The child’s full name was Amberly Alexis Barnett. She lived with her aunt and was originally from Polk County, Georgia, where her mother lives, over the state line. According to court documents, Amberly was killed on March 1.
Chris Madison, of Collinsville, Alabama, is being held without bail at the DeKalb County jail, the sheriff’s office said. Few other details about the case have been released, including a motive. The sheriff has not released any information about whether Madison knew Amberly. On Facebook, Madison and his significant other shared a joint account in which they posted photos together. The cover photo is a large heart.
Christopher Madison lives with his girlfriend in a mobile home at the same address as Amberly’s aunt. Amberly was reported to be missing from that location. A Facebook account belonging to Madison and his girlfriend is friends with Amberly’s mother.
Madison was arrested on March 2, 2019, on possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia charges, shortly after Amberly’s body was found. Court records show that Madison was accused of meth possession in the case that led to his arrest. Authorities also said he had a syringe used for methamphetamine. The additional capital murder charge was added Monday, jail records show.
“Due to the ongoing investigation, and in order not to jeopardize that investigation, 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,” Welden added.
“Life is so fragile,” the child wrote on her Instagram account, which she filled with selfies.
Amberly’s mother, Jonie Barnett, wrote on Facebook a post “in loving memory” of her “special daughter.” She wrote, “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.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Sheriff Says Christopher Madison, Who Faces Life in Prison or the Death Penalty if Convicted, Is Accused of Strangling Amberly Barnett to 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.
If convicted, Madison faces life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. The capital murder charge is because the victim is under the age of 14, according to court documents. It is not clear if Madison has been assigned an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
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.
There were very few clues released early on about the girl, just that she was at an aunt’s house and then disappeared. A vehicle was seen in the area.
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.”
2. Madison, a Father of 2, Was Previously Arrested on Harassment Charges & Was the Target of a Protective Order Accusing Him of Domestic Violence
Christopher Madison was arrested on a harassment charge in Cherokee County, Alabama, in May 2018, according to online records. Details of that case, including the outcome, were not immediately available. It is not known if Madison had any other previous arrests. In October 2018, a restraining order was issued against Madison, but it was dismissed a month later, records show. The order requesting protection from abuse was filed by his girlfriend, according to court records.
According to the DeKalb County jail website, Madison’s girlfriend was arrested the same night Madison was, on March 2, on a disorderly conduct charge. She was released from jail after posting $1,500 bail.
In 2018, his girlfriend accused Madison of assaulting her and threatening to continue to assault her, court documents obtained by Heavy show. She wrote in the application for a protective order that Madison, “threatened to slit her throat.” She also said Madison “punched her” in the face and all over body, “smacked” her head into the floor, dragged her by her hair. She said Madison had “done everything but kill me.” She said Madison, hit her in the head with a hammer, “tried shoving a pencil” in her ear and strangled her “to the point of passing out.” She wrote, “he has done so much and threatened to do more.”
According to court documents, Madison and his girlfriend have two daughters under the age of 7.
3. Madison & His Significant Other Posted Photos Showing Them Together
On Facebook, Madison and his fiancee, Krista Crane, used a joint account called “ChrisandKristaMadison.” The page lists them as engaged. They only had 36 friends. The publicly visible photos show them together and with a child. They met in 2013, according to what they indicated on Facebook.
Krista Crane also has her own Facebook page on which she states she has worked as a dietary aide and tutor. Her relationship on that page is listed as “it’s complicated.” Her most recent posts included memes abut keeping your guard up.
Amberly Barnett leaves behind a heartbroken family and community.
A GoFundMe page was 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 another 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 Wrote About Her Daughter Frequently on Facebook
Amberly’s mother emotionally shared her many travails in life and relationships on her Facebook page. She took to social media again after her daughter went missing.
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. Amberly Would Have Been Famous One Day, a Man Who Knew Her Says
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.