Local News

Jury deliberations begin in Shaniya Davis murder case

Posted May 22, 2013

— The fate of Mario Andrette McNeill, who is accused of raping and killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis in 2009, is in the hands of a jury following closing arguments Wednesday morning.

If the eight-man, four-woman jury finds him guilty, they would hear evidence before deciding whether to sentence him to life in prison without parole or death.

During closing arguments Wednesday, defense attorney Butch Pope said the state failed to make its case against McNeill and could not prove where the child was assaulted or when she died.

"We don't know when this little girl died,” he said. “And after three years of investigation, and after this trial, and after testimony from an expert pathologist, we still don't know."

McNeill, 33, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and rape in the death of Davis. Her 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.

Witnesses and security video established that McNeill had the girl when he checked into the Comfort Suites hotel in Sanford on Nov. 10, the day Shaniya was reported missing.

McNeill has admitted to taking Shaniya to the hotel but has contended that 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.

Pope and lead defense attorney Terry Alford said McNeill’s actions speak to his innocence – he didn’t hide from security cameras at the hotel and tried to get in touch with Shaniya’s family after she was reported missing.

There was no evidence of semen found on Shaniya’s body or clothing. Pope said the state’s case boils down to hairs found in a trash can outside the girl’s home and on a comforter from the hotel.

"That hair could have come in on his clothes, or on Shaniya's clothes," he said, reminding the jury that McNeill had a sexual relationship with Shaniya's mother. "That hair doesn't prove one thing, one thing - but it sounds like it must be relevant. It doesn't prove sex, it doesn't prove assault, it doesn't prove anything.”

Prosecutors led closing arguments Tuesday, wrapping up three weeks of testimony that included 44 witnesses for the state. They exhorted the jury to find McNeill guilty based on “strong circumstantial evidence” and said the suspect was the only one with the means and motive to kill the girl.

“Tell her you know what happened to her, not the lies that he’s been telling,” Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said Tuesday. “I ask you, I plead for you, on behalf of the state of North Carolina, to take that last step. I ask you to go into that jury room and find him guilty for what he did to that little baby.”

McNeill did not take the stand or present any evidence in his own defense during the trial, but he demanded jurors watch his full six-hour interview with police.

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 after McNeill's case is over, but prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty against her.


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  • ataylor2723 May 23, 2013

    I have read some of the comments on this particular case up here and I agree that this man deserves to pay for his crime against this innocent child. But what I do not agree with are any negative comments about his attorneys especially Terry Alford. Terry Alford is a very close family friend and I will not tolerate any negative comments about him! He is a good man and a great attorney. Do any of yall realize he was a COURT APPOINTED lawyer? Meaning he got handed a case, a case in which I am very certain he did not want! But he has to defend his oath as a lawyer to do his job. If you are talking negatively about his attorneys (Alford and Pope both) please go and read our laws and judicial proceedings and pay VERY close attention to the part that states that any person has the right to proper legal representation. Read the Miranda Rights and pay VERY close attention to part of if you can not afford an attorney one will be appointed to you!

  • canucmypointofview May 23, 2013

    They are still deliberating??

  • anastasia May 23, 2013

    Crimes like this aren't committed in front of an audience. McNeill was immortalized on video carrying this child into a hotel in Sanford. He knew where her body was located. He gave up the body location to his lawyers. How much more does one need? This is not an episode of CSI.

  • Bartmeister May 23, 2013

    I feel like McNeill killed Shania but I'm not sure there's evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt. As much as I want to see this monster go to prison for the rest of his life I'm not sure that can be done soley on circumstantial evidence. Glass Half Full


    If that is the mentality, they're gonna have to let Brad Cooper and Jason Young out of prison.

  • tiblet May 23, 2013

    The Death Penalty is a JOKE here now. I sat in on a capital murder case in 1997 and he is still alive.
    Click to view my profile NomoreKoolaid

    NomoreKoolaid...I am sure that is frustrating...but I thank you for your service and even if the person that you voted to convict is still alive...at least he/she is not free to hurt anyone else. That in and of itself is a victory.

  • tiblet May 23, 2013

    for those who think he just "looks" guilty... Without presenting a defense...what does he claim he did with the child after taking her to the motel? Is there any evidence that he handed her off to her other relatives that promised to take her to school? Why would you take a child to a motel room for one hour? I think the defense knows that if they open up any kind of questioning...it will become very clear very fast that he did it. So they are opting not to present a defense...I take it to mean that there is no defense. As for using his real name and being visible on the security cameras...this man was simply not smart enough to think through those things ahead of time. I believe the jury will see this man for who he is and hold him accountable for what he has done.

  • 678devilish May 22, 2013

    I beleive the jury will give this man life in prison and no parole.

  • Glass Half Full May 22, 2013

    I feel like McNeill killed Shania but I'm not sure there's evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt. As much as I want to see this monster go to prison for the rest of his life I'm not sure that can be done soley on circumstantial evidence.

  • mewuvbb May 22, 2013

    I am praying that the jury will do their part in offering JUSTICE for the little girl, in which the jury in Florida let a child killer go free and clear. If he did not do the crime, I just do not understand why he could not tell or would not tell who did. If I did not do it, I would make sure if I was facing these charges I WOULD turn over all or anyone to my lawyer so they will be prosecuted for this uncaring crime.

  • Lamborghini Mercy May 22, 2013

    berle101 - The evidence is weak, he looks guilty, but dont we all.... look at the facts because a killer could still be out there praying on kids..

    He was seen on camera with the child and that was the last time she was seen alive. He later cooperated with police in locating the dead girl -who was missing. Those two facts create circumstantial evidence that if he didn't kill her he knows who did, and if he's not willing say someone else did kill her he deserves full punishment.