Fayetteville man guilty of killing Shaniya Davis, not of raping her
Posted May 23, 2013
Fayetteville, N.C. — A jury on Thursday convicted a Fayetteville man of kidnapping and killing a 5-year-old girl more than three years ago, but he was acquitted of raping her.
The eight-man, four-woman jury deliberated for about 7½ hours over two days before finding Mario Andrette McNeill, 33, guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, sexual offense of a child, indecent liberties with a child, human trafficking and sexual servitude in the death of Shaniya Davis.
McNeill showed no emotion as the verdicts were read in the quiet courtroom.
Shaniya's father, Bradley Lockhart, said sitting through the trial has been difficult – and it's not over.
"I've had to relive this whole thing again, and we've still got several more months of court proceedings to relive this," Lockhart said. "Then, I've got the rest of my life to kind of always look back on it. So, it's something that we'll never get over. It's something we've got to learn to deal with."
McNeill's family has declined to speak with the media during the trial.
Jurors will return next Tuesday to hear evidence before deciding whether McNeill should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
Shaniya's body 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.
An autopsy determined that she had been suffocated, and she had injuries "consistent with a sexual assault" shortly before she died, according to a medical examiner.
Prosecutors presented 12 days of testimony from 44 witnesses, tying McNeill to Shaniya through a security video at a Sanford hotel, hair from a hotel comforter and a blanket found in a trash can outside the girl's home, and soil from the gas pedal of his car, which a geologist said likely came from the site where Shaniya's body was found.
McNeill's original defense attorney also provided Fayetteville police with information that led to the discovery of Shaniya's body.
McNeill presented no evidence in his defense, and his attorneys argued that prosecutors couldn't prove where Shaniya was assaulted or when she died.
His DNA wasn't found on the girl, and he has maintained that he took her to the Sanford hotel at the request of her aunt and later handed her off to someone he thought was related to her.
Investigators say Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, sold her daughter to McNeill to pay off a drug debt. Antoinette Davis 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 later this year, but prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty against her.
McNeill has maintained since his arrest that he didn't kill Shaniya. He even rejected a plea deal last month before his trial started that would have kept him off death row. That decision now lies with the jury.