Local News

Man charged with death of Fayetteville child

Posted November 19, 2009 7:47 p.m. EST
Updated November 20, 2009 9:59 a.m. EST

— Three days after finding the body of 5-year-old Shaniya Nicole Davis in rural Lee County, Fayetteville police charged a family acquaintance Thursday in her death.

Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, of 2613 Pine Springs Drive, was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree rape of a child. He has been held in isolation at the Cumberland County Detention Center on a first-degree kidnapping charge since his initial arrest last Friday.

He surrendered to police after the release of hotel security video from a Comfort Suites in Sanford that appears to show him carrying Shaniya on the morning of her disappearance.

Antoinette Nicole Davis reported her daughter missing from their Fayetteville home on Nov. 10.

In an affidavit for a warrant to search McNeill's 1997 Mitsubishi Galant, investigators said McNeill told them he picked Shaniya up in front of her home and drove her to the hotel.

Davis, 25, was arrested Saturday and 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."

Despite the arrests, there was no word of Shaniya’s whereabouts until Sunday, when police said they had obtained reliable information that her body had been dumped in the woods off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett county line.

After extensive searches Sunday and Monday, volunteer searchers found her body about 100 feet off Walker Road in southeastern Lee County on Monday afternoon.

Police Chief Tom Bergamine said Thursday that a preliminary autopsy report shows Shaniya died of asphyxiation.

"Other tests still need to be conducted, so a final report has not been issued," Bergamine said.

Since the discovery of her body, authorities have struggled to resolve jurisdictional questions over who would handle the murder case. Prosecutors must prove where the girl was killed to establish legal jurisdiction to prosecute someone on a murder charge.

Prosecutors in Cumberland and Lee counties met for four hours Wednesday to discuss the issue, and Fayetteville police and Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis met again Thursday.

The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office finally took the lead on the case, resulting in the charges against McNeill.

Was girl payment for drug debt?

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to determine whether Davis might have given her daughter up to settle a drug debt, said Theresa Chance, spokeswoman for the Fayetteville Police Department.

“Lots of people are saying that, so it’s part of the investigation,” Chance said Thursday.

She declined to comment on whether Davis owed money to McNeill.

Funeral arrangements for Shaniya weren't complete Thursday.

Residents of the Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park, where she lived with Davis, held a Thursday night prayer service to remember the girl.