Local News

SBI to probe possible DSS cover-up in girl's death

Posted December 7, 2009 10:07 a.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2009 6:20 p.m. EST

— Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis and Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine have asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into whether social workers have turned over all of their records in the death of 5-year-old Shaniya Nicole Davis.

The girl was reported missing from her Fayetteville home on Nov. 10. Her body was found in a patch of kudzu off a rural road near the Lee-Harnett County line six days later.

She died of asphyxiation, according to preliminary autopsy results.

Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, of 2613 Pine Springs Drive, has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape of a child and first-degree kidnapping in the case. Police have characterized him as a family acquaintance.

Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, 25, has been 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."

McNeill and Antoinette Davis are being held in state prisons in Raleigh for their own protection, authorities said.

The Cumberland County Department of Social Services previously looked at Davis with regard to her 7-year-old son, not Shaniya, according to her uncle, Michael Davis. The case was closed, and Antoinette Davis was able to retain custody of the boy, her uncle said.

DSS Director Brenda Jackson has previously declined to comment on the agency's involvement with the Davis family, citing the investigation into Shaniya's death as well as confidentiality rules for child welfare cases.

to notify him that he and Bergamine have requested an SBI investigation of DSS.

"Chief Bergamine has requested the SBI's assistance to determine if Fayetteville police have received complete and accurate records from Cumberland County DSS regarding this case," Grannis wrote. "Based upon the information provided to me and my senior staff by the Fayetteville Police Department concerning these issues, I share their concern, and I have requested the assistance of the SBI to assist us in this regard."

In a statement released by Cumberland County spokeswoman Sally Shutt, Jackson said she would ensure that her office cooperates with authorities to resolve the matter.

Neither Jackson nor Grannis returned phone calls Monday seeking further comment.

Shaniya's father, Bradley Lockhart, declined to comment. The girl lived with him and his sister until early October, when he allowed her to go live with Antoinette Davis.

Authorities with the state Child Fatality Task Force already are looking into any DSS contact with the Davis family. The task force studies all child deaths in North Carolina to make recommendations to legislators on changes to state laws and administrative polices to prevent future deaths.