DALTON, Ga. — Walk along the path between the thorns of the blackberry bushes behind the home at 170 Novella Drive and you come to a clearing beneath a wooded canopy near the five points intersection of Beaverdale Road.
To the left is a circle of cinderblocks that look to be a fire pit that hasn’t been used in a while and an area that could have been the site of many a talk around the fire. Just another shady place on a hot summer day, perhaps, with discarded wood boards and buckets filled by recent rains.
Follow the path to the right and you find the shallow grave that Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office officials say held the remains of Christine Medlin, 40, who had been reported missing in March of 2017. Those remains were discovered when Amy Gale Duckett, 49, who had been a “person of interest” in the disappearance throughout and was Medlin’s girlfriend, led investigators to Medlin’s grave Wednesday morning at about 10.
“It is shocking,” said Nikki Boerner, who was a next-door neighbor of Medlin and Duckett when the two lived on Novella Road. “The last time I saw (Medlin) was in December of 2016 and she told me she couldn’t babysit my daughter anymore because she and (Duckett) were fighting all the time.”
According to records of the sheriff’s office, Medlin’s mother Susan Medlin of Knoxville reported her daughter missing on March 16, 2017, and hadn’t heard from her since New Year’s Day. She told a deputy she usually talked to her daughter every week to two weeks. She said he daughter had a “problem with narcotics” and was told by Duckett on March 15 that her daughter was in rehab. Susan Medlin said when she spoke with Duckett on March 16, Duckett said Medlin’s daughter was not in rehab and the last time she spoke with her, she left walking in the woods from her residence at Novella Drive.
Capt. Paul Woods with the sheriff’s office said Duckett contacted Susan Medlin Tuesday night and told her she would take her to where her daughter was buried. Woods said Susan Medlin and a private investigator made contact with Duckett on Wednesday morning and deputies were waiting when the three arrived at the Novella Drive residence.
Woods said since Christine Medlin was reported missing, Detective Chris Gay has been in monthly contact with Duckett, and said he believed guilt led Duckett to tell Susan Medlin where the body was.
“They were just normal people,” Boerner said. “We would hang out at barbecues and have movie nights. It is just a shock.”
Boerner said she lived in the house next door to Duckett and Medlin, but it burned down. She said she and her husband William moved into the house at 170 Novella Drive in December of last year. Before moving in, they said the house had to be cleaned out extensively.
“It was pretty bad,” William Boerner said. “They had to get one of those big container bins. It was just all sorts of stuff everywhere. I have a shady spot in the woods on the other side of where they found the body. I have been walking back there all this time and never knew what was back there.”
The body was discovered wrapped in carpet and white plastic wrap with a tarp lining the grave and covering the body. Woods said the body wasn’t removed from its wrappings and was sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Duckett, of 3767 Freeman Springs Road in Rocky Face, has been charged with concealing the death of another person, making false statements and hindering law enforcement officers. No charges relating to Christine Medlin’s death have been filed, but Woods said more charges and more arrests could be forthcoming as the investigation continues.
The announcement of the discovery of the body was made by press release by the sheriff’s office, and Susan Medlin was not pleased with the report. She would not elaborate on what she called her “frustration” beyond a statement when contacted by a reporter, saying she had promised an exclusive interview to a television station.
“What has been reported in the press release from Whitfield County is not correct information,” Susan Medlin said. “I, at the moment, will not comment on that. It is going to be addressed shortly.”
Woods said there was nothing incorrect in the release.
“Exactly what was said in the press release was what happened,” Woods said. “We had followed up on this case on a regular basis by Detective Gay. There has been no evidence of murder or anything like that, and we will know more once the crime lab report comes back.”