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Police testify during fifth day of McNeill trial

The Fayetteville police officer who headed the search for a missing 5-year-old girl in 2009 testified Friday that a tip from the suspect's attorney led to the discovery of her body.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The Fayetteville police officer who headed the search for a missing 5-year-old girl in 2009 testified Friday that a tip from the suspect’s attorney led to the discovery of her body.

Charles Kimble – now an assistant chief for the Fayetteville Police Department - testified Friday, the fifth day of the trial of Mario Andrette McNeill, who is charged in the kidnapping, rape and murder of Shaniya Davis. He told the jury he was a captain during the search for Davis, who had been reported missing by her mother in November 2009.

McNeill was arrested after witnesses identified him as the man holding Shaniya in surveillance images from Sanford hotel, but the child was still missing. Information from an FBI analysis of McNeill's cellphone led officers on a fruitless search for Shaniya along N.C. Highway 87, between Spring Lake and Sanford.

“We mobilized a huge search and rescue effort,” he said. “We had a game plan.”

Then Kimble said he received a phone call Nov. 15, 2009, from Allen Rogers, the lawyer representing McNeill at the time.

“The information he gave me is we should look between Spring Lake and Sanford in an area where deer are killed,” Kimble testified.

The tip helped officers narrow down the search area, he said. Cornel Espirit, a canine handler whose dog found the girl, testified that he found her body in a kudzu patch, partially under a log.

In the courtroom Friday, the jury was asked multiple times to leave because of objections from defense attorney Terry Alford.

Alford tried to block part of Kimble’s testimony, saying the information from he got Rogers was protected under attorney-client privilege.

Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons overruled that objection and another against the state showing photographs of where McNeill lived with his then-girlfriend, April Autry.

The pictures showed motivational posters throughout the home and a kitchen that was closed off. Two dogs were in the kitchen, and the floor was covered in feces.

During cross examination, Alford said the dogs had been left alone in the house for several days after McNeill was taken into custody.

Fayetteville police Detective Elizabeth Culver, who picked up McNeill from the home, testified that he came willingly came to police headquarters. She said McNeill turned to Autry before leaving and said, "You know what this is about."

Alford also objected to other evidence shown from McNeill’s home, including a music CD entitled “Road Rash Jail Break,” saying it was prejudicial.

Testimony is expected to continue Monday.

Investigators say Shaniya’s mother, Antionette Davis, sold her daughter to McNeill to pay off a drug debt. She 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.

McNeill, who faces the death penalty if convicted, has repeatedly said he didn’t kill the child.



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