Local News

Mental claim delays Fayetteville death penalty trial

Posted April 21, 2013
Updated April 22, 2013

— The capital murder trial of Mario Andrette McNeill has been delayed for at least a week while McNeill undergoes a mental evaluation.

McNeill, 32, is charged with murder, rape and kidnapping in the death of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis.

Opening statements were set to begin Monday afternoon, but Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons told jurors not to come back until next Monday.

Defense attorneys raised a question Monday morning about McNeill's "capacity to proceed" and included an assessment of McNeill by Durham psychologist James Hilkey, who also evaluated Robert Stewart, who received a life sentence for killing eight people at a Carthage nursing home in 2009.

Ammons directed doctors from Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro and Central Regional Hospital in Butner, two state mental hospitals, to confer with Hilkey and conduct an independent evaluation of McNeill over the next few days.

The judge said he would hold a hearing Friday to determine whether the trial will proceed.

Shaniya's 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 her mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, reported her missing from their mobile home on Sleepy Hollow Drive in Fayetteville.

Mario McNeill in court Judge orders psychiatric exam of accused child killer

Two weeks ago, McNeill rejected a deal offered by prosecutors to guarantee a life prison sentence if he pleaded guilty. His attorneys said he maintains his innocence.

Defense attorneys also challenged his statement to police, saying prosecutors promised his original attorney that they wouldn't seek the death penalty if McNeill helped them locate Shaniya's body. Prosecutors have denied any such agreement.

That motion was supposed to be handled last Friday, but Ammons closed the courtroom briefly to address what a court administrator described as a legal issue about attorney-client privilege.

Media organizations, including Capitol Broadcasting Co., the parent company of WRAL News, filed a motion challenging the decision to close the courtroom, saying he never made a specific finding "of any compelling interest in closing the courtroom" to meet standards imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court for shutting out the public.

Ammons defended the move Monday, saying he did it as a last resort.

"To avoid public disclosure of sensitive information that might prevent the parties from having a fair trial, I did find that there was no less restrictive means in protecting this interest, and the scope of the closure was held to 15 minutes," he said.

He could address that issue on Friday – the media want a transcript of the closed hearing – as well as the defense request to suppress McNeill's statement to police.

Investigators say 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.

Her trial will be held after McNeill's case is over, and prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty against her.


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  • ddn2 Apr 23, 2013

    Don't waste the time putting him in prison, he has already eaten too many meals he don't deserve.

  • aprilhunter220 Apr 22, 2013

    Should have known he would try the I am crazy defense. He is not crazy now nor was he when he did it. They should put him in prison for the rest of his life and he will be taking care of in prison. Inmates do not like child molesters and child killers.

  • jurydoc Apr 22, 2013

    Apparently most of you don't understand the LEGAL concept of competency. Our system requires that the defendant be competent to understand the proceedings against him and to participate meaningfully in his own defense. That is the issue of competency to stand trial. The trial is starting NOW. Thus, his mental state needs to be evaluated NOW. His mental state a year or more ago is irrelevant to a competency determination.

  • welfarequeen Apr 22, 2013

    how terrible to think this - he knew in his right mind what he was doing to this little girl - i think these people need their heads examined . marciamal1

    Honey, that is what is happening. He is getting his HEAD EXAMINED. So when it comes back and they say he is crazy, what will you say then? He needs his head examined but you better not say he is crazy because I want him to suffer? That is EXACTLY what you are saying madam.

  • 426X3 Apr 22, 2013

    This dude knows how to play the system. Yea! He's crazy. Crazy like a fox.

  • Testjmpr13 Apr 22, 2013

    His lawyer can delay this all he wants. But if the DA and Judge screw this up there will be a great outcry of all the citizens of this state. He should have had the psych eval during the past year he has been incarcerated prior to the start of the trial. This piece of trash should have been left in the ditch.

  • katzlover Apr 22, 2013

    why wait for so long .. should have been done looooong time ago..
    dumb sys ...

  • oleguy Apr 22, 2013

    4 years and now a delay for mental? You got to love our broken court system

  • marciamal1 Apr 22, 2013

    Capacity to proceed - what the heck are they thinking - this is so ridiculous - i can't believe the judicial system - how terrible to think this - he knew in his right mind what he was doing to this little girl - i think these people need their heads examined - This makes me so sick i feel like vomiting right now - this is not FAIR - WGCFV - you are right - he would have no problem killing again - He and the mother deserve the death penalty and i hope the heck if they get a life sentence that some inmate plays with them really hard!~

  • tigersnpirates6389 Apr 22, 2013

    fully agree with cghsmom!!! and jetset!!