Missing Knott woman's death ruled homicide; family wants arrest, closure

The last time Donna Hale saw her daughter Christina Renee Barnett, she was leaving the house to meet a friend.

That day, Sept. 18, Barnett, known as "Chrissy," left at 1:10 p.m. and never returned home. Family and friends assisted police officers in the search for her in a wooded area along Ky. 80, and the private search party found Barnett, 34, on Sept. 25 outside Hindman in Knott County.

Barnett's body was severely decayed and lay under a television in a dumpster. Very little was known about how she got there. The state medical examiner's office in Frankfort identified Barnett through dental and medical records and fingerprints.

"She left the house a beautiful girl and I got her back in an urn," Hale said. "She had so much life to live. You're not supposed to outlive your child."

On Wednesday, officials confirmed that Barnett had been the victim of a homicide. No one has been arrested, and investigators have not released any new details.

"It's a pending investigation and I can't really say anything right now," said Jeff Blair, Knott County coroner.

Police investigating the case did not return calls for comment.

Hale told the Herald-Leader she was relieved to see her daughter's case back in the news. She said she hopes it will help police arrest her daughter's killer.

Hale said her family has been struggling with Barnett's death. One of Barnett's sisters was a part of the search party that went out in the rain and mud looking for her. Hale said they were searching an area that had already been covered, but they smelled a strong odor and saw a buzzard hovering around a dumpster. They found Barnett shortly after, and Hale received a phone call.

Hale said she's ready to keep fighting for justice.

"As long as there is a breath in my body I will make sure Chrissy gets justice," she said.

Barnett was the oldest of Hale's four children. She would have celebrated her 35th birthday Oct. 8.

Hale said Barnett was dedicated to her family and treated her nieces and nephews like they were her own children.

"She did everything she could for her family," Hale said. "Family came first. She spoiled me rotten. She concentrated on me and her dad."

Hale said her family has endured a string of deaths. Barnett's father was killed in 2009 when a car he was working on fell on top of him. The two grandchildren found his body in the driveway of their home.

"If she can't be with me at least I know she's with her father," Hale said.