Christopher Wayne Madison, 33, has been arrested and charged with capital murder. The sheriff's office said he is being held at the DeKalb County Jail without bond.
Strangulation is the cause of death, and the body was found in a wooded area about 200 yards behind the defendant’s home. According to the warrant issued on Monday for Madison's arrest, authorities believe Amberly Barnett was murdered on Friday, March 1.
"The road to justice for this sweet, innocent little girl is too important to release anything to jeopardize this investigation," said Sheriff Nick Welden, in a statement released Monday.
Our sources say Madison is the brother-in-law of Barnett's aunt, who she was living with when she went missing. WAAY 31 spoke with a family friend about how she will remember the little girl.
“Bright, happy, fun little girl. She loved track, she loved animals, she loved her family. She has a little brother and they were best friends,” said Amanda Adams, a friend of Amberly’s family.
She said she’s shocked that anyone could hurt, much less kill, an innocent child.
“Just devastated and floored that we’ve got someone this evil in our community, and this happened just ten minutes from where I live,” Adams said. “This is the devil walking around...”
Adams is a mother herself and said she can’t imagine what the 11-year-old's mother is going through.
“We, as a community, love our kids enough to let any predator know we will not stand for this. All of us will do everything we can to make sure you get the justice you deserve. We wouldn’t push for time in jail ... I believe he deserves nothing less than the death penalty,” Adams said.
In the meantime, she is asking the community to keep Barnett's family in their thoughts and prayers.
"She was a sweet little girl, and she did not deserve this. I want her to be remembered for the innocence that she was, the beautiful little girl that she was, and not this,” Adams said.
The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office is holding a press conference Monday at 3 p.m. to discuss the Amberly Barnett death investigation after searchers found the 11-year-old's body Saturday morning.
Barnett disappeared from the Mt. Vernon area of DeKalb County on Friday, and deputies were dispatched to County Road 822 in Mt. Vernon. The search expanded from DeKalb County into Cherokee County as well as part of Georgia.
WAAY 31 will livestream the conference at 3 p.m.