The mother of an 8-year-old autistic girl who was found dead earlier this week is now facing murder charges alongside her domestic partner in connection with the child’s death.
Nicole “Amari” Hall’s body was found in DeKalb County on Tuesday morning. The autistic 8-year-old who had been reported as missing by her mother, Brittany Hall, 27, on Sunday.
Gwinnett Police Chief J.D. McClure announced the discovery of Nicole “Amari” Hall’s body during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The cause of the child’s death is not yet being disclosed by police, but the chief said her body was found at 10:45 a.m. in a wooded area off Stone Mill Trace and Juliette Drive near Stone Mountain Park.
Initially McClure said only the elder Hall’s partner, Celeste Owens, 29, had been charged with felony murder in Amari’s death, while the mother was to face a concealing the death of another charge. By the end of the week, however, malice murder and felony charges had been filed against Brittany Hall as well.
“We compared statements that we got from Brittany Hall and also her partner, Celeste Owens,” McClure said. “We compared those statements with evidence that we had gathered and recognized that those statements were indeed false. At that point, our investigation transitioned from a missing person case to indeed a homicide case.”
Prior to the announcement on Tuesday that Amari’s body had been found, both her mother and Owens had already been charged with several counts of cruelty to children because of cases of abuse that McClure said investigators discovered during the course of their investigation.
Brittany Hall also faces a charge of filing a false report for reporting her daughter missing. The women each also face making false statements charges as well.
They were denied bond by a judge on Wednesday.
Police were called to the HomeTown Studios hotel on Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Peachtree Corners shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday on a report from Brittany Hall that Amari was missing. The mother told officers that the child had been missing since about midnight.
“We immediately conducted a large scale operation in which we worked to locate Amari,” McClure said. “This included calling all resources, our helicopters, our canines. We conducted door-to-door searches.
“We conducted an extensive search and there was no sign of Amari. Additionally, we believed that Amari, at this point, was not necessarily a missing child because there was no indication that she was truly a missing child.”
McClure said investigators began to suspect foul play was involved early in the investigation, although he added that officers continued to search for Amari as late as Tuesday morning. One issue was the conflict between the statements provided by Brittany Hall and Owens and the evidence.
“The timeline they had given in terms of when they allege she was missing is not consistent with the evidence that we found,” McClure said.
Jail records show Owens was arrested on Sunday while Brittany Hall was arrested on Monday. Although the mother has not been charged with murder at this time, McClure said officers are continuing to investigate what role she played in her daughter’s death.
It is not yet clear how long Amari Hall’s body had been at the site where it was found, or whether she was killed there or died elsewhere and her body was just dumped at that site.
Interviews with her mother gave police a general idea of where her daughter’s body was located, according to the police chief. Two other children that were with the mother and Owens has been taken into custody by the Department of Family and Children Services.
“It’s extremely painful,” McClure said. “We all have family and we recognize the innocence of an 8-year-old child.
“But, I will say in these cases, (that innocence) inspires investigators, officers, crime scene investigators, even more so to work these cases. Although we can’t bring her back, we can bring those responsible for her death to justice.”