Accused child killer presents no defense in death penalty trial
Posted May 16, 2013
Fayetteville, N.C. — A Fayetteville man accused of raping and killing a 5-year-old girl more than three years ago has elected not to present any evidence in his death penalty trial.
Mario Andrette McNeill, 32, is charged with murder, kidnapping and rape in the death of Shaniya 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.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday morning. If the eight-man, four-woman jury finds him guilty, they would then hear evidence before deciding whether to sentence him to life in prison without parole or death.
Prosecutors called 44 witnesses over the past three weeks before resting their case Thursday morning.
Retired Fayetteville police Sgt. Chris Corcione was the final state witness, summing up the more than five hours of McNeill's videotaped interview with police that jurors watched Wednesday.
McNeill had surrendered to police after they identified him from a security video as having taken Shaniya to a Sanford hotel shortly after she disappeared. They grilled him for nearly six hours as they clung to the hope that she was still alive.
"Early on in the interview, it was clear Mr. McNeill was in denial mode," said Corcione, who led the questioning of McNeill.
"At one point in the interview, I thought it would be a good idea to plant a seed in his mind that someone told him to take the child," Corcione said. "I wanted him to grab onto that story and use that to legitimize the fact that he had the child."
McNeill repeatedly denied even knowing Shaniya for about the first two hours of the interview, but he later told police that the girl's aunt asked him to take her to the Sanford hotel and hand her off to relatives who would ensure that she went to school.
Investigators told McNeill that his story sounded implausible and that a log of text messages to and from his cellphone didn't back him up.
"You killed that baby, didn't you?" Corcione asked during the interview.
"No, no, no," McNeill insisted.
"No reasonable person would take a strange 5-year-old person from the front porch," Corcione said. "You killed that little girl because you had to get rid of her because she's evidence of the crime."
"No, no, no," McNeill said.
A couple of days later, McNeill's attorney provided information that led investigators to Shaniya's body. An autopsy determined that she had been suffocated and had injuries "consistent with a sexual assault."
Defense attorney Terry Alford asked that all charges be dismissed against McNeill for insufficient evidence, but Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons denied the motion.
Ammons then advised McNeill of his right to remain silent.
"You should think about this long and hard before making this decision. It's your decision, not mine, not anybody else's," Ammons said.
McNeill said Thursday afternoon that he wouldn't testify, and his attorneys rested without offering any evidence.