Local News

Judge denies bid by girl's accused killer to avoid death penalty trial

Posted January 11, 2013 11:43 a.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2013 2:16 p.m. EST

Shaniya Nicole Davis

— The man accused of buying, raping and killing a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl in November 2009 could face the death penalty, if convicted in his trial next month, after a judge denied a defense motion Friday.

Mario Andrette McNeill, 32, has been charged with murder, kidnapping and rape in the death of Shaniya Davis, whose body was found in a kudzu patch near the Lee-Harnett county line on Nov. 16, 2009, six days after her mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, reported her missing from her Fayetteville home.

McNeill's attorneys asked that the state be barred from seeking the death penalty in the case, but Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons denied the request. The basis for the motion wasn't clear.

Defense attorneys Butch Pope and Terry Alford also asked to delay the trial by 60 days to give attorneys more time to review video from four cameras at the mobile home park where Shaniya was taken. Ammons denied that as well.

Ammons said he would decide which crime scene and autopsy photos prosecutors can show to the jury after the defense asked that none be shown.

McNeill said nothing during the brief hearing – his last court appearance before jury selection begins for his trial on Feb. 18.

Authorities say Antoinette Davis was complicit in her daughter's death. Arrest warrants stated that she "did knowingly provide Shaniya with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude" and "did permit an act of prostitution with Shaniya."

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.

Antoinette Davis is charged with first-degree murder, indecent liberties with a child, felony child abuse, felony sexual servitude, rape of a child, sexual offense of a child by an adult offender, human trafficking and making a false police report.

She also had been scheduled to go on trial on Feb. 18, but prosecutors said her trial will start separately, likely in March. Prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty against her.