Fayetteville, N.C. — The man accused of raping and killing a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl more than three years ago made a chilling statement to police searching for the girl that he "was waiting to get a call to come and kill her."
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.
An FBI agent who was called in to assist in the search for Shaniya testified Tuesday that McNeill spoke with Fayetteville police after employees at a Sanford hotel identified him as being with the girl shortly after her disappearance.
"We needed to keep him talking to get a location for Shaniya Davis – that was or goal," the agent said, adding that the interview was contentious at times.
"Mr. McNeill was not telling the truth. He kept changing his story," he said. "He would sometimes giggle. He would sigh, yawn. He was shutting down. Our goal was to keep him talking. We needed to make him understand this was serious business."
After initially denying knowing Shaniya, McNeill told police that the girl's aunt sent him a text message asking him to pick Shaniya up from the family's home. He said he had been sending texts to different women so he could meet with them.
"He continued a story about getting text messages to come pick this child up. He said the hotel was a waiting spot." the FBI agent testified, adding that McNeill was going to take Shaniya to a Fayetteville dry cleaners to meet some unidentified people.
"Did he use a word that changed the focus of the interview?" Assistant Cumberland County District Attorney Robby Hicks asked.
"He was waiting to get a call to come and kill her," the agent replied. "The interviewers, everybody kind of stopped (and asked) 'What did you say?' He actually said he was waiting to come and kill her. When we tried to get him to expand on that, he wouldn't."
During cross-examination, the FBI agent said McNeill later corrected himself to say he was waiting for someone to "get her," not "kill her."
Before the jury returned from lunch, Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons asked defense attorneys to keep McNeill from speaking to any witnesses after he apparently called the FBI agent a liar.
Earlier Tuesday, the eight-man, four-woman jury reviewed photos and watched a 14-minute video showing the overgrown kudzu patch where Shaniya's body was found.
Chad Royal, a State Bureau of Investigation agent who documented the site, said she was under a large log that searchers had to use chainsaws to remove.
"She was lying partially on her right side. Her feet were extended toward an area where there was a body of water," Royal said.
Authorities had to cut the vines to remove her body, but they were so entangled that they left some vines on the body so as not to destroy any evidence that the medical examiner might collect, he said.
"It was a long process to physically remove her, with the log and all the vegetation," he said.
One juror wiped away tears and others were visibly upset by the images. Cheyenne Locklear, Shaniya's half-sister, ran out of the courtroom in tears as Royal described the recovery of the body.
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.