A Newton County man accused in his 2-week-old daughter’s death acted nervous and fidgety after the child was reported missing, a deputy testified Tuesday.
Newton County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Hicks responded to the family’s home on Oct. 7, 2017 after the baby’s mother, Cortney Bell, reported her missing. About 30 minutes after Hicks arrived, Christopher McNabb showed up looking disheveled, the deputy testified. McNabb said at the time that he had been searching for 2-week-old Caliyah. Her body was discovered 900 yards from the family’s front door.
Opening statements began Tuesday morning in McNabb and Bell’s trial, followed by witness testimony.
The defense says there is no evidence that McNabb and Bell killed their newborn, and that the couple’s 2-year-old daughter woke them up to tell them the baby was gone.
“Without a trace, she’s gone,” attorney Anthony Carter said.
Investigators identified McNabb and Bell as possible suspects even before the baby’s body was found, he said.
“They went after the people who were most vulnerable,” the said. “The people that had just lost their 2-week-old baby.”
On Oct. 8, searchers found Caliyah’s body in a drawstring bag in the woods. An autopsy determined she died from blunt force trauma to the head.
McNabb was charged with murder days later. In January 2018, a grand jury indicted him on eight counts, including malice murder, felony murder, second-degree murder, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another. The grand jury indicted Bell on second-degree murder, child cruelty and child deprivation charges.
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Prosecutors say McNabb and Bell were drug users in a violent relationship who changed their stories about what happened to Caliyah as the investigation unfolded.
“We’re going to show you exactly how this baby was living,” Assistant District Attorney Alex Stone said.
A 911 operator, deputy and Bell’s father, Timothy Bell, and cousin, Megan Sorrells, were among the witnesses who testified on Tuesday.
Timothy Bell said he bought everything for his granddaughters, including their diapers, food and clothing. Sorrells said Bell and McNabb had a violent relationship and used drugs.
“She always had bruises on her,” Sorrells said of Bell. “I didn’t really have to ask many questions. I could tell.”
In the days after Caliyah’s birth, her parents dropped her and her 2-year-old sister off at Sorrells’ home. Two days later, Timothy Bell picked them up and cared for them for a couple of days. Before returning his granddaughters to their mother, Bell said he told Cortney Bell to clean up the trailer.
The day after he returned the girls to their parents’ trailer, Caliyah was reported missing.
Other deputies, along with those in the community who helped search for the baby, also testified.
The trial will resume Wednesday morning.
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