Search for missing girl focuses on Lee County
Posted November 15, 2009 11:36 a.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2009 6:03 a.m. EST
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Authorities have suspended their search for a 5-year-old girl reported missing by her mother, who is charged with human trafficking and child abuse involving prostitution.
Fayetteville police spokeswoman Theresa Chance said the search for Shaniya Nicole Davis will resume Monday morning.
Investigators followed up on leads Sunday, and officers conducted a ground search between Fayetteville and Sanford for Shaniya, who hasn't been seen since Tuesday.
A state Highway Patrol helicopter assisted in the search for Shaniya, spokesman Capt. Everette Clendenin said.
The Lee County Sheriff's Office said its search focused around N.C. Highway 87 and Walker Road, near the Carolina Trace subdivision. The area has woods crisscrossed by open fields.
Sky 5 footage of the scene showed Walker Road blocked off and law enforcement vehicles parked along the road. K-9 units were at the scene, and officers searched a kudzu-covered ravine off the highway.
Residents also joined in the search for Shaniya throughout the day, near the Swann Station community.
“I have five kids, and to me, no child deserves something like this,” searcher Belinda Gaona said. “If it was one of mine, I would hope for someone to help me.”
“I couldn't even fathom my daughter missing at this point. I don't even think I’d be able to take it,” searcher Randall Fore said. “That's hard to deal with when you've got kids.”
Late Saturday, Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, was charged with human trafficking, felony child abuse – prostitution, filing a false police report and resist, delay or obstruct an officer. She is being held in the Cumberland County Detention Center under a $51,000 bond.
Chance said that arrest documents say Davis "knowingly provide(d) Shaniya Davis with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude" and she "permit(ted) an act of prostitution."
Police arrested Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, Friday on charges of first-degree kidnapping in the case. Chance has said that McNeill admitted to taking the girl, although his attorney told the Associated Press that he will plead not guilty.
Shaniya was reported missing from her home, at 1116-A Sleepy Hollow Drive, on Tuesday morning. Davis told police she put Shaniya on a couch at 5:30 a.m., but the girl was gone when she checked on her about an hour later.
After an Amber Alert was issued, a worker at a Comfort Suites hotel in Sanford reported seeing a child matching Shaniya's description with a man at the hotel – about an hour before Shaniya was reported missing. 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.
Police have not commented on McNeill's relationship to Shaniya and her family. Her father, Bradley Lockhart, said he does not know McNeill.
The first person arrested in the case – Clarence Coe, who said he is Davis' boyfriend – was released and cleared of all charges.
Despite the arrests, Shaniya remains missing, and her relatives said that police have given them no indication of her whereabouts.
"Finding Shaniya is the top priority," Sgt. John Somerindyke 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.