Mother charged in death of 2-week-old baby Caliyah

Chris McNabb and Caliyah McNabb (Newton County Sheriff's Office)
Chris McNabb and Caliyah McNabb (Newton County Sheriff's Office)

Three months ago, a panicked mother told a 911 operator she woke up and her 2-week-old baby was gone. Little Caliyah McNabb wasn’t in her bed and her blanket was missing, Cortney Bell said.

By then, the newborn was already dead from blunt force trauma to her head, Newton County investigators later said. Caliyah, who hadn’t yet reached 6 pounds, was a homicide victim. And within hours, the baby’s father, Christopher McNabb, was charged with her death.

What about Caliyah’s mother? Had she also been involved? Bell wasn’t initially charged in connection to her baby’s death. But on Saturday afternoon the 24-year-old was arrested in a Home Depot parking lot after a Newton County grand jury indicted her on charges of second-degree murder, cruelty to children and child deprivation, DA Layla Zon said.

She was being booked into the Newton County Jail Saturday night.

The development came as no surprise to her father.

“She knew that she was taking those kids into harm’s way,” Tim Bell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution late Saturday. “But the murder charge…I can’t say if she had any involvement with that.”

Caliyah was born on September 23 about two weeks ahead of her due date, her grandfather said. She was tiny but thriving, and lived in mobile home park near Covington with her parents and 2-year-old sister Clarissa. It was the older girl that alerted her mother that Caliyah was missing, Bell said during the 911 call.

Clarissa lived the first 18 months of her life at her grandfather’s house and was like his own child, Tim Bell said. In the days after Caliyah’s death, Tim Bell said he believed McNabb hurt the baby and had also abused Cortney.

“You just had to know him,” Tim Bell said Saturday. “He was a monster.”

On the morning of October 7, authorities were called to report a 15-day-old infant missing from her Newton home. Here is the audio from that call.

Since 2008, McNabb has served three times in state prison following convictions for obstruction, theft, burglary, and criminal damage, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. At the time of his arrest on Oct. 8, McNabb had an active warrant out of Bartow County, according to police.

The same neighbors that helped search for Caliyah were shocked to learn the allegations against McNabb.

“I prayed someone had her,” said Sherron Fontenot, who has lived in the mobile home next door to the family for six weeks.

In an interview days after Caliyah was found dead, Fontenot said she had watched McNabb yell in front of a television camera that he wanted his baby back, and she desperately hoped the baby would be found unharmed. She cried when she learned Caliyah’s fate.

“She was dead,” Fontenot whispered. “He was so sincere.”

Tim Bell said he again has custody of Clarissa, who turns 3 in February. She was temporarily placed in state custody after Caliyah’s death, he said. Though he’s hopeful his daughter wasn’t involved his Caliyah’s death, Bell said he wants answers.

“Now’s the time for her to let the court system know exactly what happened,” he said.

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