Local News

No murder charge yet in girl's death

Posted November 17, 2009
Updated November 18, 2009

— A week after a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl disappeared and a day after her body was found near Sanford, police are still trying to sort out the evidence in the case to determine who to charge in her death.

Shaniya Nicole Davis was reported missing from her home, at 1116-A Sleepy Hollow Drive, by her mother last Tuesday morning. Volunteer searchers found a body Monday afternoon in some woods off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett county line.

On Tuesday, the State Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that the body was Shaniya's. No cause of death has been released.

Two people have been arrested in Shaniya's disappearance – charges against a third person were dropped – but no one has been charged with killing her.

Police said one issue holding up any charges is the question of jurisdiction in the murder case. Prosecutors must prove where a slaying occurred.

Lee County authorities have referred all questions to the Fayetteville Police Department. The department plans to address the media at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but it's unclear whether new charges will be announced then.

Two held in disappearance

Police arrested Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, on Friday and charged him with first-degree kidnapping in the case. Investigators said McNeill has admitted to taking Shaniya from her home, and hotel security video from a Comfort Suites in Sanford last Tuesday appears to show him carrying her.

Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, 25, was arrested late Saturday and charged with human trafficking, felony child abuse–prostitution, filing a false police report and obstructing a police investigation. Arrest warrants state that Davis "did knowingly provide Shaniya with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude" and she "did permit an act of prostitution with Shaniya."

Antoinette Davis in court 911 call in girl's disappearance released

In a 911 call released Tuesday, Davis was hysterical when she told a dispatcher that her daughter was missing.

"I woke up this morning, and my daughter was not in the house. I don't know if she walked out. I don't know what going on, but she's not here," Davis said.

Later in the nearly three-minute call, her voice is completely calm as she noted twice that Shaniya knew how to unlock the front door.

"I'm telling you she knows how to unlock it. I'm hoping that she didn't unlock it and walk out," Davis told the dispatcher.

Both McNeill and Davis are being held in isolation at the Cumberland County Detention Center for their protection, authorities said.

Authorities confirmed Tuesday that Davis is pregnant and that Clarence Coe is the father of the child.

Davis initially accused Coe of kidnapping Shaniya, but police dismissed the charge and released him from jail after determining the information to be false and then arresting McNeill.

Father, aunt: End violence against children

Shaniya's father, Bradley Lockhart, thanked everyone Tuesday afternoon for their prayers and support and thanked the Fayetteville police, other law enforcement officers and volunteers who helped find his daughter.

Bradley Lockhart, father of Shaniya Davis Slain girl's father: Don't let it happen again

"It's not the result I wanted. It's not the result any father or family would want for their children," Lockhart said. "My heart hopes and bleeds and prays that this community (and) this country can possibly unite as one to prevent something like this from happening again to another special angel."

As he stood amid a shrine of flowers and teddy bears in his front yard, he said he was "appalled and disgusted" about the possibility that his daughter was sold as a sex slave.

Lockhart's sister, Carey Lockhart-Davis, urged people to help any child they see who might be in danger.

"Don't let another innocent bystander go unnoticed because we, as adults, fail to realize that they depend on us for safety and trust," Lockhart-Davis said as she choked back tears. "To every pedophile, every person who thinks of taking a child, please beware . I'll be watching."

She said she felt "robbed" because her special bond with her niece has been broken. She recalled helping Shaniya learn how to tie her shoes and color pictures.

"She had such a wonderful, kind soul, and her spirit and smile brightened every day of everyone she touched," she said.

Shaniya's death is the second family tragedy for Lockhart. Eleven years ago, his former wife, Vicki Lockhart, was one of three people killed in a home invasion in Cumberland County.

Although Lockhart said he would try to forgive Davis for Shaniya's disappearance and death, his sister said she never cared for Davis and how she cared for her children.

"Never have I allowed my children to live in an environment that was unsafe," Lockhart-Davis said.

Lockhart said he didn't want to blame anyone for Shaniya's death, saying he could have done things differently himself.

"Every parent would blame themselves. We all look within ourselves to see what we could have done differently," he said.

DSS, police probes detailed

He said, though, that he wished the Cumberland County Department of Social Services had notified him about any problems in Davis' home.

DSS looked at Davis with regard to her 7-year-old son, not Shaniya, according to her uncle, Michael Davis. The case was closed, and Antoinette Davis was able to retain custody of the boy, her uncle said.

DSS Director Brenda Jackson declined to comment on her agency's involvement with the Davis family, citing the criminal investigation into Shaniya's death as well as confidentiality rules for child protective services cases.

Shaniya Davis, Questions arise over custody of slain girl

A search of court records turned up no previous criminal charges against Davis, but she lived at a home on Wall Street in July that police raided. Officers found "narcotics manufacturing materials" in the house, but no one was charged, according to an incident report.

Residents said they had seen Shaniya running around the neighborhood unattended, but Davis' family maintains she was a good parent.

"I know she’s a great mom. She’s a great mom. Antoinette really loved her children,” said Davis' uncle, Arthur Cromartie.

Cumberland County Schools officials said Shaniya was a kindergarten student at Morganton Road Elementary School until mid-October, when she was taken out of the school and wasn't enrolled elsewhere.

"We have no knowledge of what the reason was for her being withdrawn from school," Morganton Road Principal Charlotte McLaurin said.

Lockhart said he allowed Shaniya to move in with her mother on Oct. 9.

During a Monday morning interview on CBS' "Early Show," he said Davis had worked to get her life together and had been working for at least six months and gotten a place of her own.

"She had asked if she could be a mother, and I felt she was sincere in asking, and I figured to give her a chance," he said.

According to court records, Lockhart has five other children with three women. He has had custody and child support disputes involving several of the children, but there was no record of any disputes involving Shaniya or Antoinette Davis.

Lockhart's friend says he expressed concerns over Shaniya Lockhart's friend expressed concerns

Tim Allen has been caring for Lockhart's 17-year-old daughter, Cheyenne. He said Tuesday evening that he told Lockhart not to send Shaniya to live with her mother.

"I feel he is 99 percent the reason why this happened in the first place,” Allen said of Shaniya’s death.

Allen said after Shaniya went to her mother’s house, he noticed marks on her arms.

"Boyfriends and his friends would put the cigarettes out on the baby's arms,” he said.

Davis worked in the kitchen at Carolina Inn at Village Green, an assisted living facility in Fayetteville.

CES, a South Carolina-based staffing company that has a contract with Carolina Inn, hired her in June 2008 after an extensive background check, an official said. She had a good employment record at both Carolina Inn and the Haymount Nursing Rehabilitation Facility, but she is no longer employed by the company, the official said.

254 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • ashmeadestables Nov 19, 9:41 a.m.

    I can't seem to let this case get out of my head! One thing that keeps on my mind is when the hotel staff realixed this girl might be her, why was this man allowed to leave with her? Or when did they call the police and how long did it take them to get there?

    There seem to be so many things that could have gone differently that would have yeilded a better result with this case (though I guess a good part of that is hindsight is clear).

    This definitely opens my eyes about being more observant and aware of gut instinct when something seems "off" and to get involved even if it means causing conflict or even a scene in some cases.

    There is just so much that does not make sense and the largest above all that is the senseless torture and death of a 5 year old child. THAT will never become clear as to WHY, etc. but I do hope the other details come out and will hopefully make a difference to change things and maybe prevent this from happening to another child.

  • Eshana Nov 17, 7:49 p.m.

    At this point, I don't think anyone (both parents and others) are to be trusted at their word......something about this whole ordeal just doesn't sit right (and the law enforcement agencies are just to tight-lipped about this case).....and I would not be surprised that something like a "sex ring" or similar is really going on.......ultimately, I think a whole lot of people are going to be fingered in this, and rightfully so......and if this occurs, that'll be the one good thing that will come out of this tragic situation.....possibly keeping other young people safe.

    Rest in peace Shaniya-

  • itsmyownopinion Nov 17, 7:45 p.m.

    "I want to know where the father worked? If he loved his daughter, why in the world did he allow her in that type of an enviornment?" georgiat28

    I read somewhere that he had to travel in his job and that he was in Oregon.

  • bcarolinabreeze Nov 17, 7:38 p.m.

    I keep thinking I'll forget about this story as we tend to do with ongoing news...but I can't. It's just too heartbreaking. Rest in peace, little lady.

  • whatchoo_sayin Nov 17, 7:26 p.m.

    I already know that color didn't have nothing to do with this, so I ain't even gonna say that it did.

  • georgiat28 Nov 17, 7:20 p.m.

    I want to know where the father worked? If he loved his daughter, why in the world did he allow her in that type of an enviornment?

  • anntwllf Nov 17, 6:46 p.m.

    Needmocash,yes she is a beautiful child as all little children are,when we become adults most of us get ugly.It is tragic when any child is harmed in any way.

  • gsnively Nov 17, 6:40 p.m.

    TO all of those working so hard on this little angels death, I say this, "Take your time. Do this right. We want those guilty of this ungodly crime to find out that their world DOES NOT RULE! God bless you guys for the job that you have ahead of you.

  • 5-113 FA Retired Nov 17, 6:30 p.m.

    Why is Social Services "scrambling" to explain themselves? It's really hard for me to believe they suspected nothing out of the ordinary in their visits in the home. The scramble to explain is always a red flag.

  • itsmyownopinion Nov 17, 6:17 p.m.

    Then tell us what you're hiding, gsmith. Inquiring minds want to know.

More...