FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A judge ruled Friday that statements made to police by the mother of a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl who was murdered almost four years ago can be used during her upcoming trial, despite defense arguments that investigators bullied her during days of questioning.
Antoinette Nicole Davis, 29, faces numerous charges in connection with Shaniya Davis' death, and defense attorneys said prosecutors should be barred from introducing her statements to police as evidence at her trial, which is scheduled to start Oct. 28.
Shaniya was reported missing from her Fayetteville home on Nov. 10, 2009, and Fayetteville police talked to Davis, other family members and neighbors to generate information to help locate her.
Davis' lawyers said Friday that investigators questioned her on and off over four days but never advised her of her rights to remain silent and to confer with an attorney. Prosecutors responded by saying that she was never under arrest during the questioning – she was there only to help police find her daughter – and so never had to be read her Miranda rights.
"She was arguably coerced and bullied by two law enforcement officers," defense attorney D.W. Bray said, noting that, by the fourth day of questioning, she was sobbing and, in the words of prosecutors, "broke."
"I gave her to him to cover $200. He was only supposed to have sex," a weeping Davis told investigators.
The statement led police to Mario Andrette McNeill and eventually to Shaniya's body, which was found Nov. 16, 2009, in an overgrown field on the Lee-Harnett county line. An autopsy determined that she had been sexually assaulted and suffocated.
McNeill, 32, was convicted in May of kidnapping and assaulting Shaniya before killing her, and he was sentenced to death.
Prosecutors allege that Davis gave Shaniya to McNeill to settle a drug debt.
She had been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, child abuse, sexual servitude with a child, child abuse sexual act, human trafficking and indecent liberties with a child. Prosecutors on Friday also charged her with criminal conspiracy and first-degree kidnapping.
She doesn't face the death penalty in the case.
Bray said Davis' statements should be thrown out, arguing that police browbeat her so much that she was effectively in custody.
Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons denied the motion, saying that her statements were voluntary.
"There were no threats or suggestion of violence" by police, Ammons said, adding that he would preclude prosecutors from using any statements she made after her arrest.
The defense also has called for the human trafficking charge to be dismissed, at the very least. McNeill's kidnapping conviction makes pursuing a human trafficking case against Davis "legally impossible," according to Bray, because either Davis gave her consent to McNeill taking the child or he abducted her.