Mugshot of Christopher Wayne Madison / Photo contributed by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against an Alabama man if he's found guilty of killing an 11-year-old girl.

Christopher Wayne Madison, 33, is jailed in the death of Amberly Alexis Barnett, a next-door neighbor who went missing on March 1 from her aunt's house in DeKalb County where she lived. Madison is also charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia.

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This is a photo of Amberly Alexis Barnett released by Alabama authorities during the initial search after the girl was reported missing March 1, 2019. / Photo contributed by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office

While a grand jury presentation still could be a few sessions away as prosecutors await forensic test results, Deputy District Attorney Bob Johnston said the state has filed notice it will seek the severest penalty possible in the strangulation death of Barnett.

"A week or so ago, [the court] gave us 150 days to file notice about whether or not we'd be seeking the death penalty upon conviction for capital murder," Johnston said. Johnston and District Attorney Mike O'Dell studied applicable statutes en route to the filing, he said.

Brian White, one of Madison's two attorneys in the case, this week declined to comment on the case for now. Madison's other attorney in the case is Jake Watson, records show.

Evidence, including blood and hair, were collected from Madison's home and the crime scene where the body was found. Forensic testing could take some time, officials have said.

Just after dawn on March 2, the girl's body was found by DeKalb County Sheriff Nick Welden, communications director Matt Martin, Sgt. Sethe Greene, chief investigator David Davis and a couple of police K-9 handlers, who were searching the area where she was last seen, said department spokesman Tyler Pruett, who helped in the search.


There are now 177 inmates on death row in Alabama. Of those, five are women, four white and one black. Among the 172 men, 86 are black, 84 are white and two are described as “other.” The average age of people on death row is 34. Executions are carried out at Holman Prison in Atmore.

Source: Alabama Department of Corrections

"Sheriff Welden noticed a shovel standing straight up at the back of the yard of Christopher Madison's residence. I followed the sheriff up a distinguishable foot trail leading from the back of Madison's yard, and then fanned out approximately 100 yards to the right of the sheriff to scan a larger area," Pruett said in a statement.

"After proceeding about 150 yards up the trail, I noticed Sheriff Welden begin to run as if he had seen something. I began to run to catch up," Pruett said. "Before reaching his location, the sheriff asked me to 'hang on a minute,' so that he could make sure it wasn't a 'doll or something' he had found."

The sheriff got close enough to confirm it was the missing girl, and to see a blue rope around her neck. Madison was then held at his home to make sure he didn't try to leave, Pruett said. He was charged later the same day.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at