Fayetteville, N.C. — The body of a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl had to be cut out of an overgrown kudzu patch with chainsaws because the vegetation was so dense, a state investigator testified Monday.
Shaniya Davis was found on Nov. 16, 2009, off N.C. Highway 87 on the Lee-Harnett county line, six days after her mother reported her missing from their Fayetteville mobile home.
Mario Andrette McNeill, 32, is charged with murder, kidnapping and rape in Shaniya's death. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Chad Royal, a State Bureau of Investigation agent who documented the site where the girl's body was found, said she was wearing only a dark-color shirt and pink stripe underwear. Her feet were so white that they appeared as if they had been in water, he said.
"She was entangled in vegetation," Royal said. "The vegetation had to be cut in order to pull her out."
Royal will continue testifying Tuesday, when he will narrate a 14-minute video he shot of the site for the eight-man, four-woman jury. Jurors also will see some crime scene photos, despite the objections of defense attorneys.
Earlier Monday, a hotel worker testified that he saw McNeill leaving a Sanford hotel with Shaniya on the day she disappeared from her home.
Matthew Argyle, a maintenance worker for the Comfort Suites, said he saw McNeill coming out of the rear of the building with the girl lying on his shoulder, covered with a blanket.
"I thought she was asleep at the time," Argyle said. "I said hello to him, and he just walked by. He didn't say anything back."
A hotel clerk testified last week that McNeill had checked into the Comfort Suites with Shaniya about an hour earlier.
Argyle said McNeill put the girl into the back of a car, and he then watched as the car pulled out of the parking lot.
"I noticed him looking back and forth, kind of assessing the situation," he testified.
Defense attorney Terry Alford asked if McNeill "was looking back and forth as if he was looking for someone," and Argyle said that is how it appeared.
Alford told jurors in his opening statement last week that Shaniya's aunt had asked McNeill to take the girl to Sanford to hand her off to relatives who would ensure she attended school.
Argyle said he paid such close attention to McNeill and the girl because he "had a feeling that I should be watching, that something was amiss."
He and another hotel worker called police the next day after an Amber Alert had been issued for Shaniya.
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.