How did baby Caliyah die? Investigators hope autopsy will yield answers

Caliyah McNabb was reported missing from Covington. Her parents were brough in for questioning. (Photo courtesy McNabb family)
Caliyah McNabb was reported missing from Covington. Her parents were brough in for questioning. (Photo courtesy McNabb family)

Newton County authorities call father who fled a person of interest

She entered the world early, tinier than most. And 15 days later, at barely 6 pounds, little Caliyah McNabb was gone, allegedly taken from her Newton County home while her parents slept.

Her small body was found Sunday, abandoned in woods behind her home. On Monday, an autopsy was conducted to determine how Caliyah died. Though no one has been charged in connection with the newborn’s death, authorities have labeled Caliyah’s father, Christopher McNabb, a person of interest in the case.

“We’ve got a dead child, but we don’t know what caused the death,” Newton County Sheriff Capt. Keith Crum told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We don’t know that a crime has been committed.”

nvestigators say Chris McNabb tried to hide from police after he learned volunteers found the infant??€™s body in the woods.

While the investigation continued, some pointed the finger at McNabb, who fled after the baby’s body was found. On Monday, McNabb was behind bars at the county jail for violating the terms of his probation from an earlier criminal conviction, the Newton Sheriff’s Office said.

“He needs to stay in jail,” Caliyah’s grandfather, Tim Bell, said late Monday.

Bell’s daughter, Cortney, already had a 2-year-old daughter with McNabb when Caliyah was born Sept. 23, Bell said. Caliyah arrived early, but was already flourishing, Bell said, heartily drinking two ounces of milk every two hours.

Caliyah had her milk around 5 a.m. Saturday, according to her parents, who said they were asleep in a separate bedroom. At 10 a.m., Caliyah wasn’t in her crib, and her parents called 911 to report her missing. Newton County deputies arrived at the mobile home community and searched throughout the day for the baby.

Late Saturday, McNabb pleaded for Caliyah to be returned.

“I want my kid back, man,” McNabb said. “That’s my child, man. I want my kid!”

Chris McNabb (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)
Chris McNabb (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

The search continued Sunday, when the infant’s body was found in a duffel bag in the woods behind her home.

After the baby was found dead, McNabb ran away, jumping out of a car apparently to avoid talking to sheriff's deputies. Surveillance video showed McNabb in a nearby convenience store, where a clerk recognized him and called 911, Channel 2 Action News reported. Witnesses at the store said that McNabb yelled that he "didn't do it" before he was taken into custody. McNabb was arrested for violating his probation in Bartow County. 

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McNabb has an extensive criminal record and has served time in state prison three times since 2008, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. He was convicted in Fayette, Coweta and Bartow counties of various crimes, including obstruction, theft by taking, burglary and criminal damage, records show. Most recently, McNabb was released from prison on Sept. 2, 2016, after serving about 14 months.

When McNabb failed to meet with his probation officer in Bartow County, an arrest warrant was issued for him, Crum said Monday. McNabb was being held without bond.

Attempts on Monday to locate a lawyer for McNabb were unsuccessful.

The baby’s mother spoke with deputies Sunday and was released.

The next step for investigators, Crum said, will be learning how Caliyah died. Though routine toxicology tests will take several weeks to be completed, deputies hope preliminary autopsy details will give them answers.

“It’s sad, a little tiny baby like that,” Crum said. “It tears your heart up.”

Bell said he was granted temporary custody of his 2-year-old grand-daughter in court Monday morning as McNabb watched. An angry McNabb had to be restrained by deputies, Bell said.

He, too, wants answers in his Caliyah’s death, Bell said. He feels like the baby’s father is responsible for the baby’s death.

“He done something to that baby,” Bell said.

In the coming days, Bell said he will take care of one grandchild while making funeral arrangements for the second.

“Grandparents ain’t supposed to have to bury their grandkids,” he said.

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