By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
State Supreme Court upholds Newton father's murder conviction in baby's 2017 death
Christopher McNabb.jpg
Christopher McNabb is shown during the trial. - photo by File Photo

ATLANTA — The Georgia Supreme Court Tuesday, May 17, affirmed the murder conviction of the Newton County father of a baby found beaten to death in October 2017.

Justices affirmed a Newton County jury's May 2019 conviction of Christopher Michael McNabb, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole on a charge of Malice Murder and an additional 10 years for Concealing the Death of Another in the death of two-week-old Caliyah.

They also rejected his claim that his attorney provided insufficient counsel which resulted in his conviction.

The baby's mother, Cortney Bell, on Oct. 7, 2017, reported Caliyah missing from a bedroom in the trailer park off Henderson Mill Road and Ga. Hwy. 36 where she and McNabb also lived with a 2-year-old daughter. 

The next day, searchers found the baby's body wrapped in a blue cloth and placed underneath a log in a wooded area located about a quarter-mile away from the trailer park, according to Newton County Sheriff's Capt. Keith Crum.  

Prosecutors said the two were high on methamphetamine when their baby was killed. 

Attorneys for the pair claimed someone broke in, took the child and killed her while the couple slept.

However, according to his arrest warrants, McNabb, "did strike the victim…with an unknown object. This action did cause the victim's skull to be seriously disfigured and damaged beyond repair."

The warrant also said McNabb wrapped his daughter's body in a T-shirt and blanket before putting her in a drawstring bag and hiding her in the woods.

After his conviction, McNabb quickly requested a new trial and Newton County Superior Court denied the request in March 2021.

He then appealed the ruling — arguing that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions and that his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance. 

District Attorney Randy McGinley said the claims involving McNabb's attorney "were that the trial attorney should have objected to evidence of McNabb’s drug use, of his prior incidents of physical abuse, and the fact that he was first cousins with his child’s mother, Cortney Bell."

Supreme Court justices, in their unanimous ruling, rejected McNabb's charge that he had insufficient trial counsel after saying his attorney did raise issues McNabb said were not raised during the trial.

They also wrote, "The evidence presented at trial supports the jury’s guilty verdicts on the counts of Malice Murder and Concealing the Death of Another. 

"Moreover, the evidence authorized the jury to determine that the proved facts were not only consistent with McNabb’s guilt but that they excluded every other reasonable hypothesis as to who committed the crimes." 

Superior Court Judge Layla Zon was district attorney in 2019 and helped prosecute the case with Senior Assistant DA Alex Stone, McGinley said.

"Any murder case is tragic, but the awful and brutal murder of a baby only days old is especially heinous." McGinley said. "For those involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case, there are images that can never be unseen.

"Today, Caliyah’s killer had his appeal denied. Convictions after trial are not final at the verdict. The DA’s office spends countless hours after the conviction handling motions for new trial and appeals. 

"I am so grateful to have an office full of people willing to fight for justice. This opinion by the Supreme Court keeps McNabb’s sentence of life without parole in place and serves as the last step of justice for baby Caliyah," McGinley said.

Bell also was arrested on Jan. 1, 2018, and charged in the case. She was sentenced to 30 years, with 15 to serve on all three of her charges including Second-Degree Murder, Second-Degree Cruelty to Children and Contributing to the Deprivation of a Minor.

However, the Georgia Court of Appeals in February reversed her convictions on Second-Degree Murder and related Cruelty to Children in the Second Degree charges but affirmed her conviction on Contributing to the Deprivation of a Minor that led to the death of the victim. 

Caliyah McNabb