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Witnesses try to explain lack of suspect's DNA on Shaniya Davis

Posted May 13, 2013

— Prosecution witnesses tried to explain Monday why they didn't find a Fayetteville man's DNA on the 5-year-old girl he's accused of raping and killing more than three years ago.

Mario Andrette McNeill, 32, is charged with murder, kidnapping and rape in the death of Shaniya Davis. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.

Shaniya 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.

A State Bureau of Investigation analyst testified Friday that she found no evidence of semen on Shaniya's body or clothing, although a medical examiner said that she had injuries "consistent with a sexual assault."

On Monday, another SBI analyst said she found no male DNA on Shaniya but said that was "not unexpected."

"The longer the time goes on between the incident and testing, the DNA starts to degrade," analyst Kristin Hughes testified. "Seventy-two hours is usually the opportune time for us to collect DNA evidence."

An autopsy determined that Shaniya had been suffocated, but it's unclear how long her body was in the woods before it was discovered.

Hughes also said exposure to the elements and bacteria also could degrade DNA to the point where it cannot be matched to other samples.

Defense attorney Butch Pope also suggested another scenario during his cross-examination.

"It could be because there's no sex, right?" Pope asked.

"It's possible," Hughes replied.

Mario McNeill in court Hairs consistent with McNeill found on hotel comforter

"Under proper conditions, DNA can last for years and years and years," Pope said. "DNA testing has been done on mummies."

Hughes agreed with those statements.

Earlier in the day, Jennifer Remy, a trace evidence analyst for the SBI, testified that hair found on a blanket police pulled from a trash can outside Shaniya's home were consistent with McNeill. She referred to it as a body hair, declining to call it a pubic hair.

"I can't say it absolutely came from someone," Remy said, noting that she tests only for similarities and differences.

Pope informed Remy that McNeill had a previous relationship with Shaniya's aunt and asked, "When you analyze a hair, you don't know how old it is?"

"No," she answered.

Remy said four hairs recovered from the top side of a comforter taken from a Sanford motel also were consistent with McNeill's body hair. Other hairs from the comforter were inconclusive, she said.

Hughes testified that there wasn't enough DNA in most of the hairs for an accurate test.

McNeill has admitted to taking Shaniya to a Comfort Suites in Sanford, but his attorneys contend the girl's aunt asked him to take her there to hand her off to other relatives, who would ensure that she went to school.


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  • hlrickey May 23, 2013

    Kudzu patch + North Carolina = high humidity. The reason mummies are mummies is dry conditions. Everything, including DNA, breaks down rapidly in humidity and damp conditions.

  • LadyLightBlue May 14, 2013

    I really dont think he killed her...I think he had his way with her and when her trifling so called mother came to retrieve her she saw was a mess the little girl was and simply placed her hand over her mouth and nose putting her out of her misery...If he was able to rape her and then wanted her dead he would have strangled her, which there was no evidence of...the only thing he denies is killing her...the mother took the plea too quick...she is responsible for the death..but they both should burn!!!Unfortunately with our legal system the burden of proof is placed on the prosecution and they are failing miserably...

  • fishon May 14, 2013

    Butch Pope is the lowest form of a man I've ever heard of. How can he face the world everyday of his life?
    vile garbage

    Do you have knowledge of him other than he is the defense attorney? Someone has to do it.

  • vile garbage May 14, 2013

    Butch Pope is the lowest form of a man I've ever heard of. How can he face the world everyday of his life?

  • Country Girlz Have MORE fun May 14, 2013

    Which Relatives? Name who he talked too? Is that person on his phone records... that is another lie. Produce the "relative" that was meeting him....I bet his lawyer can't !

  • Disabled Vet May 14, 2013

    Even if he does get the death penalty, which he probably deserves, he will die of old age before he is executed.

  • sunshine1040 May 13, 2013

    We know he carried her into the hotel but he has not told us who carried her out and if he is not the guilty party then why is he not pointing the finger at someone else

  • feistyredhead2001 May 13, 2013

    I agree with many of these comments... that pretty little girl could have been so scared and tramatized into silence for sure and as far as this DNA goes..... what more do we really need? He admitted to having her, he admitted to where she was..... if NO one can come forward and say yes they saw her AFTER the hotel thing, or no one can come forward to say they took her from that man.... THEN HE IS GUILTY !!!!

  • djkelly May 13, 2013

    Real life is not CSI. The perfect conditions don't always exist to find those case clinching scraps of evidence.

    The environment a DNA sample is in makes a huge difference in how rapidly it degrades or how well it's preserved.

    A small girl could also be frightened into silence.

  • Redleader2base May 13, 2013

    I think everyone is putting way too much stock in DNA evidence. Long before DNA was usable in court, People were convicted of murder. People still get convicted of murder without it. And for those of you seeing conspiracy, DNA on an object does not go through the same protein denaturing that DNA on or in a cadaver would. You have internal acidity, body putrefaction, and environmental elements to contend with. And exactly how hard do you think it would be for a grown man to muffle the screams of a very little girl?