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Analysts: Soil ties man to site where Shaniya Davis' body found

Posted May 14, 2013

— State analysts said Tuesday that soil found in a Fayetteville man's car likely came from a rural location where the body of a 5-year-old girl was found more than three years ago.

Mario Andrette McNeill, 32, is charged with murder, kidnapping and rape in the death of Shaniya Davis. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.

Shaniya was found on Nov. 16, 2009, in a kudzu patch off N.C. Highway 87 on the Lee-Harnett county line, six days after her mother reported her missing from their Fayetteville mobile home.

Heather Hanna, a geologist with the North Carolina Geological Survey, testified that she compared a sample of soil that investigators collected from the gas pedal of McNeill's car with samples from the kudzu patch and found metallic fibers in both.

Roberto Garcia, a materials engineer at North Carolina State University, said the fibers appear to have come from a braided metal wire, such as a truck winch.

Hanna conducted electron micro-analysis of the soil samples at Fayetteville State University and determined that the mineral garnet also was present in all of them. Soil from McNeill's home and Shaniya's home didn't have the same composition as what was found in McNeill's car, she said.

"I would say it's highly unlikely they did not come from the same source," she said of the soil from the car and the kudzu patch.

Garcia echoed her comment.

Defense attorney Butch Pope questioned Hanna as to the extent of garnet in the region.

"I would not expect there to be garnet in the area of Fayetteville," she said, citing geological studies and maps.

Pope noted that soil on the floor mats of McNeill's car weren't tested and that the brake pedal was "squeaky clean."

"The floor mats would not have affected my interpretation of the gas pedal," Hanna responded.

"Do you know who drove the automobile before Mr. McNeill?" Pope asked. "Do you know who got in that car, put it in gear and drove off?"

Hanna said she didn't know.

"The point is, this car was placed as the one belonging to the suspect, she said.

The testimony was the first conclusive link between McNeill and Shaniya's death.

State Bureau of Investigation analysts testified in recent days that his DNA wasn't found on her and that four hairs found on a hotel comforter and some pubic hair found on a blanket pulled from a trash can outside Shaniya's home might belong to him.

McNeill has admitted to taking Shaniya to a Comfort Suites in Sanford, but his attorneys contend the girl's aunt asked him to take her there to hand her off to other relatives, who would ensure that she went to school.

Steven Swensen, a forensic expert with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who conducted advanced DNA tests on the hairs, testified Tuesday that there was less than a 1 percent chance that the hairs were from someone other than McNeill.

Christie Smith, a supervisor at the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab in Phoenix, testified that similar DNA testing showed that McNeill couldn't have been the source of hair found on Shaniya's clothing.

An autopsy determined that Shaniya was suffocated and suffered injuries "consistent with a sexual assault" shortly before she died.

Investigators say Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, sold her daughter to McNeill to pay off a drug debt.

She is charged with first-degree murder, indecent liberties with a child, felony child abuse, felony sexual servitude, rape of a child, sexual offense of a child by an adult offender, human trafficking and making a false police report. She will be tried after McNeill's case is over, but prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty against her.


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  • killing_me_softly May 14, 2013

    he abducted, raped and killed Shaniya and I hope the prosecution don't blow it because this pitiful excuse of a man need to be gone of the earth!

    How in the world do you know?

  • this is fdup May 14, 2013

    "The floor mats would not have affected my interpretation of the gas pedal," ....Very good response

  • MonkeyFace May 14, 2013

    IF, and this is a very big IF, he really did meet a family member at the hotel.. where are they now to speak up and say, hey, Yes or No this isn't true????

  • vile garbage May 14, 2013

    I know the jury doesn't know all of this, but they found child pornography on his computer, he knew where the body was dumped, he left with her in the night, he was the last person seen alive with her. What else do you need? I mean the soil in his car matches the site where she was dumped, not his home or the place where he took her in the middle of the night. What else do you want? Even if he didn't rape her the he killed her at the very least. If he says it was another person he should tell or die with the secret. Bottom line. I wish I was on the jury.

  • RALEIGHNATIVE25 May 14, 2013

    Glad I am not a juror; this does not look good for the prosecution. I don't want to really think or say except if he did it justice will be served either here on earth or somewhere I don't plan on going.

  • wayneboyd May 14, 2013

    This trial is fast becoming a money pit for taxpayers and a gold mine for attorneys!!

  • LivingfortheCity May 14, 2013

    Something just aint right about this WHOLE thing! A piece is missing in this puzzle...I wonder if he intends to testify? Because by now - he should have told who he gave the child too, 4 years of your life keeping a secret for someone else makes no sense at ALL!

  • JAT May 14, 2013

    if he raped her, there would be evidence and his DNA. i'm sure he had something to do with all this (as evidenced by his possession of her) but there's enough doubt right now that i don't know if i could find him guilty other than for the fact that he won't tell otherwise what he did with her. why risk being put to death if someone else realy did the crime?

  • Ambygirl May 14, 2013

    Short of someone else confessing to this crime, you will never make me believe he didn't rape and kill this child. Too much evidence against him so far. I only hope justice is truly served.

  • Jack Flash May 14, 2013

    Tax payer money spent to convict him is not wasted. It is unfortunate that it is necessary, but as it is necessary, it's not a waste. Let's not forget that before he was arrested, someone else was, and comments here at the time were calling for skipping the trial and going straight to a vigilante execution. That person was later cleared completely. He would have been dead first if the people who thought taxes were wasted on trying him in a court of law had their way.