Man charged with murder after Polk County girl, 11, found behind his Alabama home

33-year-old Christopher Madison is charged with capital murder.

An Alabama man has been arrested and charged with murder after an 11-year-old Georgia girl was found strangled to death behind his home Saturday, authorities said.

Christopher Wayne Madison, 33, of Collinsville, Ala., is being held without bond in connection with Amberly Alexis Barnett’s death, DeKalb County (Ala.) Sheriff Nick Welden said Monday during a brief news conference.

Madison was booked Saturday night on charges of possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia; the murder charge was added Monday, according to jail records.

Christopher Wayne Madison

Credit: Photo: DeKalb County (Ala.) Sheriff’s Office

icon to expand image

Credit: Photo: DeKalb County (Ala.) Sheriff’s Office

Barnett, who lived in Polk County, was reported missing from her aunt’s Collinsville home about 12 hours prior to the discovery of her body. It was found around 6:30 a.m. Saturday about 200 yards behind Madison’s home.

Welden did not disclose the relationship between Madison and the girl.

“Due to the ongoing investigation and in order not to jeopardize our investigation, I'm not at liberty to disclose any other additional information,” Welden said in the news conference.

Amberly’s mother, Jonie Barnett, took to Facebook on Friday night to ask for help to find her daughter. She said Amberly was gone around 6 p.m. when her sister returned home from a trip to the grocery store. Her brother-in-law was working on the property next door.

The girl’s cellphone was left behind, which was not typical, Jonie Barnett said.

“Anyone who knows Amberly, knows she would not have left without telling me or my sister,” she said. “She's to (sic) scared to get into any trouble.”

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office put out an alert around 1 a.m. Saturday, saying “all hands (were) on deck tonight to bring her home.” The search lasted through the night, extending into Cherokee County, Ala., and into Georgia.

Welden said the past few days have been emotional and trying for him and his entire staff. He said his “heart was still shattered,” but he praised his investigators for the way they pulled together and worked to make an arrest in the case.

He did not take questions from reporters Monday after reading his statement.

“Our main focus is justice for a sweet angel that gained her wings, and that’s where I stand firmly, is true justice,” Welden said.

A friend of the Barnett family described Amberly’s death as “brutal, an act of pure evil.”

"Nobody should bury their 11-year-old-child," Jonie Barnett told Channel 2 Action News. "Nobody should have hurt her. She deserves more than justice. She deserves her life."

Funeral arrangements are being made in Cedartown but have not been announced.

Jonie Barnett's graduating class at Cedartown High School set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family. As of Monday afternoon, the campaign had raised more than $7,000.

— Please return to for updates.