Local News

New suspect arrested in Fayetteville girl's disappearance

Posted November 13, 2009 10:38 a.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2009 7:53 p.m. EST

— A second man has been charged in the disappearance of a 5-year-old girl, who has been missing since Tuesday, police said Friday.

Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, was arrested early Friday and and charged with first-degree kidnapping. He was being held in the Cumberland County Detention Center under a $100,000 bond.

Police also dropped a kidnapping charge against another man, Clarence Darriel Coe, in the case and released him from jail.

Shaniya Nicole Davis was reported missing from her home, at 1116-A Sleepy Hollow Drive in Fayetteville, on Tuesday morning. Her mother told police she put the girl on a couch at 5:30 a.m., but she was gone when her mother went to check on her about an hour later.

A worker at a Comfort Suites hotel in Sanford called Fayetteville police on Tuesday to report seeing a child matching Shaniya's description with a man at the hotel. A security video showed the girl with a man believed to be McNeill at the hotel at 6:11 a.m. Tuesday.

By the time Fayetteville investigators reached the hotel, however, the man and the child had checked out, police said.

Shaniya appeared to be "well taken care of," Theresa Chance, spokeswoman for the Fayetteville Police Department, said Thursday night.

"We're hoping we find her alive," Chance said Friday.

Non-family abductions account for about 58,000 missing children nationwide each year, but 98 percent of those children are returned to their families unharmed, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Investigators are continuing to follow leads in the case, she said, including re-interviewing Shaniya's mother to gather any additional information.

One such tip led to McNeill's arrest, she said, declining to disclose how and where he was found.

His attorney, Allen Rogers, said McNeill surrendered to police after investigators contacted his family.

"Obviously, it's a very serious situation. Our hearts go out to the family of this young girl. I certainly hope she's safely returned to her family," Rogers said, declining further comment.

McNeill has a criminal history, including arrests for fleeing to elude arrest, assault on a female and drug possession.

His relationship to Shaniya and her family is unknown, but Chance said that he admitted to investigators that he had abducted the girl.

Police arrested Coe late Wednesday and charged him with first-degree kidnapping in the case.

A witness saw a man driving away from the Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park on Tuesday with Shaniya in his car, police said.

The man was initially believed to be Coe, but Chance said investigators have determined he wasn't involved in Shaniya's disappearance. McNeill told investigators that he abducted the girl, Chance said, so the charge against Coe was dropped Friday morning.

In an interview with WRAL News Friday, Coe said he planned to take legal action against police, saying that officers didn't initially tell him why he was being arrested.

“I didn’t get due process. They didn’t even have probable cause to arrest me,” Coe said. “They told me that they had three witnesses that could place me in the neighborhood."

Coe said he was with family members and babysitting his nephew at the time he was accused of driving away from the mobile home park.

While he never lived at the home, Coe said he is the boyfriend of Shaniya's mother. He said he doesn't know McNeill.

Neighbors Travis Smith and George King said they often saw Shaniya playing and frequently saw her mother with Coe.

“He seemed more upset about the girl being missing than the mother did, because he kept pacing up and down the hill, looking like he was mad or whatever that the girl was gone," said Smith, who lives two doors down from the Davis family. "To find out he got arrested, it kind of threw me off the track a little bit.”

Neighbors expressed shock at the kidnapping.

“It’s quite shocking to know that it happened so close. You’d never think something like that would happen so close to your own house,” Smith said.

Coe appealed for the return of the girl, who he said calls him daddy.

"Whoever knows where Shaniya is, just do the right thing," he said.

Shaniya is described as 3 feet tall and 40 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a blue T-shirt with pink underwear. She is thin and has a scar on her foot.

Anyone with information on Shaniya's whereabouts is asked to call the Fayetteville Police Department at 910-433-1856 or Crime Stoppers at 910-483-8477.