Parents accused of murdering their two-week old baby smoked meth together the night before they reported her missing, prosecutors allege in legal papers filed this week.
Christopher McNabb and Cortney Bell touched off a frantic search for the newborn last October, with McNabb publicly pleading for his daughter’s safe return.
But little Caliyah was already dead, according to investigators. The following day, her tiny body was found in the woods near the couple’s Newton County mobile home. She had been wrapped in clothing and placed in a bag belonging to her father, according to investigators.
An autopsy determined she died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Prosecutors told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution they have set a trial date of Aug. 13 and argue Bell and McNabb should be tried together.
“In this case, there are only two defendants, and the two defendants are charged with identical crimes,” the motion states.
McNabb and Bell will appear in court Thursday for a hearing on the matter.
Newton District Attorney Layla Zon said if the motion for one trial is denied, McNabb would face a jury first.
Attorney Bryan Frost, who is representing Bell, said he will argue that the two should have separate trials.
The request for one trial for the two defendants is likely a move to avoid the expense and time required for two separate trials, according to Chuck Boring, a Cobb County assistant district attorney. Boring is not involved with the case against McNabb and Bell.
“It could be as simple as simplicity,” Boring said. “You’re going to have much of the exact same evidence in one trial as you do in the other. With one trial, you just have one jury that will hear the evidence.”
The death of little Caliyah shocked the Covington community, where many volunteers joined deputies in the search.
On Oct. 7, Cortney Bell called 911 to report the newborn missing from the family’s mobile home.
"My 2-week-old is not in her sleeper. She's not here,” Bell told the operator. “I've looked everywhere. I’ve looked under clothes and everything.”
Bell said her 2-year-old daughter woke her up to tell her baby was gone.
McNabb was charged with Caliyah’s murder in the days after her death. Then in January, a grand jury indicted him on eight counts, including malice murder, felony murder, second-degree murder, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another.
Bell was also indicted in January on second-degree murder, child cruelty and child deprivation charges, the first time she was criminally accused of being involved in Caliyah’s death.
“Both defendants admit to being inside the home the night Caliyah went missing,” the motion for one trial states.
“Cortney Bell alleges that on the night Caliyah went missing, her and Christopher McNabb smoked methamphetamine inside the trailer after putting Caliyah and Carissa, their other child, to bed.”
Bell told investigators Caliyah woke up during the night, and McNabb got up to take care of her. When Bell woke up, the newborn was gone.
Both McNabb and Bell were being held without bond Wednesday in the Newton jail.
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