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Mother
charged in death

Woman’s drug use endangered newborn, authorities say

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com · 340-2355

Morgan County sheriff’s deputies arrested a Lacey’s Spring woman Monday in the death of her newborn son.

A grand jury indicted 21-year-old Christan Celia Atchley on a charge of endangering her child by using drugs. In this case, the charge is a Class A felony because authorities say Atchley’s drug use contributed to the child’s death.

Atchley’s common-law husband, 31-year-old James Robert Hill Jr., was arrested last week after the grand jury indicted him on a charge of capital murder.

The 7-pound, 6-ounce body of Hill and Atchley’s son was found stuffed inside a clothes basket inside the couple’s mobile home on Dry Creek Cove Road on Oct. 29, said Sheriff Greg Bartlett.

Indications of strangling

Bartlett said the child died of blunt force trauma, and there were indications the baby had also been strangled with his umbilical cord.

Investigators charged Hill with murder the day after the baby was found, but Atchley faced no charges prior to her indictment.

Investigator Pete Taylor said Atchley used cocaine during pregnancy.

“Forensic results showed cocaine intoxication was a contributing factor to the baby’s death,” Taylor said. “How did the baby get the cocaine in its system? From the mother’s cocaine use. ... She admitted to it, that she used drugs and used them frequently.”

In a telephone call to The Daily in October, a woman who identified herself as Christan Atchley told a reporter she tested positive for cocaine use but denied having used the drug herself. She claimed she had only come in contact with the drug as a result of her husband’s cocaine use.

Admitted crack cocaine use?

Sheriff’s investigators say Hill has admitted to being a crack cocaine user.

Pete Taylor said Atchley was charged under part of the new Drug-Endangered Child Act. The law is typically used to crack down on parents who keep children and meth labs under one roof.

Taylor said this is apparently the first time the law has been applied as a Class A felony in Morgan County.

Atchley no longer lives with Hill, Taylor said.

She gave authorities an Arab address following her arrest Monday.

New boyfriend

She has a new boyfriend and was working a construction job, Taylor said.

Taylor said Madison County deputies picked her up at Penny’s restaurant in New Market at about 12:30 p.m.

Atchley also faces nine charges of issuing a worthless check in Morgan County and is wanted on a larceny charge in Arab.

Atchley was the one who first raised suspicions when she went to Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville for treatment and denied having recently given birth, Taylor said.

Denied being pregnant

She had also denied being pregnant to family and friends, Taylor said.

Investigators said Hill’s and Atchley’s statements to investigators conflicted.

According to Atchley, Hill helped with delivery, wrapped the baby in a blanket and took him to the other end of the mobile home, and Atchley never saw him again.

Hill, on the other hand, claimed he slept through the whole thing.

Deputies allowed in

It was Hill who allowed deputies inside the mobile home, where they found the newborn’s body in a back room.

Investigator Terry Kelly said he believes both parents should face consequences.

“There were two adults in that house when a baby was born and a baby died. In my opinion, they’re both responsible,” Kelly said.

Atchley remained in Morgan County Jail on Monday in lieu of $100,000 bond on the drug endangerment charge and no bond on the worthless check charges. Hill remained jailed on no bond.

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