Fayetteville, N.C. — The father of a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl who was killed last fall said Friday that his daughter's memory has inspired him to campaign against violence against children.
Shaniya Nicole Davis was reported missing from her home on Nov. 10. Her body was found in a patch of kudzu off a rural road near the Lee-Harnett County line six days later.
"She talked to me. She just told me not to let her go in vain," said her father, Bradley Lockhart.
Lockhart, who has since moved to Alabama, was in Fayetteville for Shaniya Speaks Day, which is designed to bring awareness to sex crimes and violence against children. The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the John D. Fuller Recreational Complex on Old Bunce Road.
"(We want to) try to unite the community into making a difference to where this horrific crime doesn't happen to another child," Lockhart said.
The event comes two days before what would have been Shaniya's sixth birthday.
"There won't be that birthday party or that next birthday picture. It's tough," said Lockhart, who wears a yellow band on his wrist that bears his daughter's name. "Just like Amber Alert, when they hear Shaniya's name, it's a household name."
Lockhart, who was never married to Shaniya's mother, said he regrets that he couldn't take Shaniya to live with him in Alabama.
"I (could) actually go to work and go home every night and be with Shaniya and my other kids and really create a good family that I've been missing for so many years because traveling has taken me away," he said. "Every day is filled with some sort of thought or feeling of Shaniya."
Shaniya was living with her mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, at the time of her disappearance. Davis, 25, is 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 "did permit an act of prostitution with Shaniya."
Lockhart said he has forgiven Davis for what happened to their daughter.
"With God working through me and my faith staying strong – my faith has been questioned – but I continue to stand firm behind God's word and God's message," he said.
Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, of 2613 Pine Springs Drive, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape of a child and first-degree kidnapping in the case. Police have characterized him as a family acquaintance.
An autopsy determined that Shaniya died of asphyxiation and that injuries she suffered were consistent with a sexual assault. A medical examiner noted in the autopsy that investigators believe the girl was used to pay off a drug debt.