Hotel witness: 'I think that little girl was here'
Posted May 2, 2013
Updated May 3, 2013
Fayetteville, N.C. — The jury in the trial of a Fayetteville man accused of killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis heard testimony Thursday from witnesses who said he was with a little girl at a hotel days before her body was found.
The fourth day in the trial of 32-year-old Mario Andrette McNeill was spent reviewing security video from the Comfort Suites hotel in Sanford, where McNeill checked in Nov. 10, 2009 – the same day Shaniya’s mother reported the girl missing from the family’s mobile home in Fayetteville.
Jacqueline Lee said she was working the front desk at the hotel when McNeill walked in shortly after 6 a.m. and asked for a room. He told her he had his daughter with him, although Lee said she never saw the child in person.
McNeill paid for a room with cash and stayed a little more than an hour.
“He said he just wanted to rest because he was going to Virginia to take the daughter back to the mother,” Lee testified.
Lee said she saw McNeill on a security camera carrying the girl, who was wrapped in a blue blanket. He walked through the back entrance and down a hall.
The following morning, when Lee ended her shift, she'd heard about an Amber Alert. She asked the incoming desk clerk what time McNeill left.
"I said, ‘because I think that little girl was here.’ And she said, ‘Did you see her?’ I said no. It’s just the texture of her hair is what stood out,” Lee said.
She called the Amber Alert hotline, only to get voice mail.
Regina Bacani relieved Lee on the desk at 7 a.m. the morning McNeill checked in. She said he checked out at 7:38 a.m.
She described him as "very cordial," saying he had to get on the road to Virginia with his daughter. Hotel clerks recall seeing suspect in Fayetteville girl's slaying
But later that day, she said, a housekeeper came to her with a small packet of white residue she found in the room. Bacani thought it was cocaine. Her manager threw it in the trash.
The next day, when Bacani started her shift, she saw the Amber Alert.
Attorneys asked Bacani if she saw the child.
“I actually wondered where she was at when he came and checked out,” she testified. “But I never saw her.”
Seth Chambers was staying at the hotel and said he passed McNeill in the hallway. A child was slumped over his shoulder.
“It wasn’t an affectionate hold,” Chambers said.
He said McNeill gave him a nod, and the child flipped her hand in a slight wave - and that was it.
Testimony will resume tomorrow in the case against McNeill, who is charged with murder, rape and kidnapping in Shaniya's death. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Her body was found in a kudzu patch off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett county line on Nov. 16, 2009, six days after she was reported missing.
His defense attorney told jurors in his opening statement Monday that McNeill took the girl to the hotel after her aunt asked him to hand her off to relatives to ensure she would get to school.
McNeill has repeatedly said he didn't kill her.
Investigators say Shaniya’s mother, Antionette 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.