T. L. Sullivan | The Weekly Ledger News | Press Release from District Attorney's Office
CENTRE, Ala. - District Attorney Summer Summerford announced today that Christopher Alexander O’Neal was given a LIFE sentence for aggravated child abuse after a sentencing hearing held today, October 13, 2023, by Circuit Judge Shaunathan Bell.
A panel of jurors, the State, and O’Neal appeared on Monday, August 21, 2023, to begin a criminal jury trial. Before a jury was sworn and seated, O’Neal entered an “open plea” to the charge of aggravated child abuse. No agreement was reached as to the length of a sentence; therefore, Judge Shaunathan Bell set a sentencing hearing. Because of the age of the child, this is a Class A felony and O’Neal faced a range of punishment of 10 years – 99 years, or Life.
In March of 2022, a two-month-old baby girl was taken to the emergency room at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia with serious physical injuries. The infant was immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital of Atlanta where experts agreed that her injuries were consistent with child abuse.
Through an investigation that began with the Marietta Police Department, and quickly included investigators with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, it was determined that during the time the serious physical injuries occurred, the parents and child had been located in Cherokee County, Alabama. Through interviews with both parents, interviews with other family members, search warrants, and cell phone records, the father, Christopher Alexander O’Neal was arrested. Because he was under the age of 18 at the time of the arrest, no public statement could be made under the Alabama Confidentiality Act.
“This case has been very hard on everyone who played a part in caring for this child or putting together this investigation. Not only will the child have to deal with the consequences of the actions of someone who should have protected her, but family members on all sides are hurting from this terrible ordeal. Please join me in praying for this child and the family members who have lived through this horrible situation. Children are our greatest gift. We will use all the resources at our disposal to make sure they are protected,” said Summerford.
The case was prosecuted by Summerford and Assistant District Attorney Stanna Guice.