Gwinnett mom accused of killing daughter had history with DFCS

Brittany Hall (left) and Celeste Owens have both been charged with murder in connection with the death of 8-year-old Amari Hall.

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

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Brittany Hall (left) and Celeste Owens have both been charged with murder in connection with the death of 8-year-old Amari Hall.

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

A mother accused of killing her 8-year-old daughter previously considered putting her up for adoption and had been investigated multiple times for her treatment of the girl, according to state records.

Amari Hall was reported missing by her mother, Brittany Hall, on Nov. 21, two days before the girl’s body was found, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. Brittany Hall and her domestic partner, Celeste Owens, were each arrested on multiple charges before Amari’s body was found. Their charges have since been upgraded to include murder.

Now, state records obtained by Channel 2 Action News show that Hall had been investigated multiple times by the Department of Human Services Division of Family and Children Services. A DHS spokesperson acknowledged that Hall had been investigated in 2015 and 2017 with no results. She also said a report on Hall had been filed in 2021.

ExploreMother, partner arrested after 8-year-old Gwinnett girl found dead

“Based on these records, DHS had no reason to believe the child was in imminent danger,” the DHS spokesperson said. “We are working closely with law enforcement to assist them in their investigation, and to ensure the safety and well-being of the mother’s other children.”

Arrest warrants for the two women obtained Tuesday by Channel 2 revealed that Amari’s death was caused by multiple blows to the head and that Hall waited nearly two days to report her daughter as missing.

In the 911 call recording, Hall told police that Amari had autism and that they had been “having problems with her.” Later in the call, the 911 dispatcher asked Hall to give more details about the severity of Amari’s autism.

“She knows her surroundings, she knows the person and stuff, it’s her behavior,” Hall said.

Though police believe Hall knew what happened to her daughter, they do not think she went with Owens to dump her body, Channel 2 reported. Police said Hall gave them the general area where they could find Amari’s body, but that Owens has not spoken with them at all.

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Amari Hall, 8, was found dead in a wooded area two days after her mother reported her missing.

Amari Hall, 8, was found dead in a wooded area two days after her mother reported her missing.

Combined ShapeCaption
Amari Hall, 8, was found dead in a wooded area two days after her mother reported her missing.

The warrants state that Amari died after she was repeatedly hit in the head by Owens. They also accuse Owens of placing the girl’s body in a trash bag and abandoning it in a wooded area in a DeKalb County neighborhood.

Owens has been charged with malice murder, felony murder, concealing a death, making false statements and seven counts of cruelty to children, online jail records show.

Hall is accused in the warrants of causing “battered child syndrome” through repeated abuse of her daughter. She is charged with malice murder, felony murder, false reports of a crime, making false statements to conceal a fatality and five counts of cruelty to children, according to jail records.

Both women are being held in the Gwinnett County Jail without bond.

Some of the child cruelty charges against Hall and Owens are related to videos found by detectives that show Hall’s two other children, a 6-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, being beaten, according to the warrants. Both have been placed in protective custody, the AJC previously reported.

When Hall’s other children were taken into custody by DHS investigators, she told them that she had struggled to handle Amari’s behavior. She also said she considered putting Amari up for adoption and had called three adoption agencies before changing her mind, Channel 2 reported.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.