It could be months before a capital murder charge against an Alabama man accused of killing an 11-year-old girl last month is presented to a grand jury.
Christopher Wayne Madison, 33, is jailed in the death of Amberly Alexis Barnett, a next-door neighbor who went missing from her aunt's house where she lived on March 1. Her body was found the next day in an area behind Madison's home in DeKalb County. That day, Madison was booked on capital murder charges, jail records show. He also was charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia.
Evidence, including blood and hair, were collected from Madison's home and the scene where the body was found in the woods.
But it could take some time to process some of that evidence, said Bob Johnston, chief deputy district attorney in Ninth Judicial Circuit Attorney General Mike O'Dell's office.
He wasn't sure when the next grand jury meets but said the case would not be ready by then. There's no timeline on the forensic work, he said. DeKalb County court officials said a date for the grand jury's next session has not been set.
"It'll be a few grand juries from now, I would think, before we're ready," Johnston said.
Meanwhile, the circuit court judge has adopted the case so some preliminary motions can begin taking place, said Johnston, who will assist O'Dell. O'Dell will lead the prosecution if the grand jury hands up an indictment and the case goes to trial.
Madison is represented by Decatur attorney Brian White and Huntsville attorney Jake Watson. Neither could be reached for comment.
Before the discovery of the body, the girl's mother, Jonie Barnett, posted on Facebook that there were suspicious circumstances in her daughter's disappearance.
"SOMEONE GOT MY DAUGHTER FROM MY SISTERS HOME IN Collinsville/sandrock ALABAMA!" the post reads. "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 driveway. 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!"
Case details were revealed in a March 18 preliminary hearing before DeKalb County Judge Steve Whitmire, including state testimony that Madison himself initially joined in the search and had told police of a dark-colored SUV he said he saw at the home, the Times-Journal in Fort Payne reported.
DeKalb County Sheriff's Office chief investigator David Davis testified that on March 1 the girl's aunt and her aunt's boyfriend went to Walmart in nearby Centre around 6 p.m. CST, leaving Barnett and her younger brother with their grandfather, who lived on the same street, the newspaper reported.
The girl's aunt and her boyfriend returned to discover her missing and checked with neighbors who said they hadn't seen her. Madison reportedly searched the tree line behind the property multiple times and told searchers "it was good" and there was no more need to search there.
Tracking dogs were used a the scene near Madison's home. Nearby, Davis and Sheriff Nick Welden spotted a trail leading into the trees marked with a shovel stuck in the ground, the paper reported. A pine tree along the trail appeared to be disturbed and had strands of long, blonde hair stuck to it. Beyond the tree, investigators saw a dragging pattern on the ground, a sock and then a machete, the paper reported. The girl's body was found about 40 feet further along the trail, one sock missing amid "evidence of foul play," Davis testified.
She was found with a blue rope wrapped around her neck and her face was reported as red and discolored. A dark hair was also found on her stomach, according to testimony. The preliminary autopsy report stated the girl died by strangulation, according to preliminary autopsy findings.
Other testimony regarding case evidence included blood found in the bathroom and two bedrooms of Madison's home, hair suspected of belonging to the girl found in the bathroom sink, an account from Madison's wife regarding Madison's interest in bondage and how unusual it was for him to have washed clothes or cleaned the bathroom.
Davis testified under defense questioning that Barnett had been staying at her aunt's home since the summer of 2018, the paper reported. Davis also said no fingerprints were found.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.