A 5-year-old North Carolina girl was raped and killed the same day she was taken from her home, according to an arrest warrant released Friday. Shaniya Davis was sexually assaulted and asphyxiated Nov. 10, the day her mother reported her missing from the trailer park where she was staying, according to the warrant. Authorities embarked on a nearly weeklong search that ended when the girl’s body was found dumped off a rural road.
Mario McNeill is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree rape of a child in the warrant, which was issued after police said they collected hair and fibers, clothes, and a straw from his 1997 Mitsubishi Galant. He was initially charged only with kidnapping.
McNeill seemed nervous as he appeared in court Friday for a brief hearing on the latest charges. He nodded his head slightly to the judge’s questions but did not enter a plea. His lawyer, Allen Rogers, left the courtroom with his client and didn’t speak to reporters. He also didn’t return messages left at his office from The Associated Press.
The girl’s mother, Antoinette Davis, is charged with filing a false police report, trafficking her daughter and child abuse involving prostitution. Her mother said she doesn’t believe the charges. “She did not harm her kids. I was there, I should know,” said Ann Summers, who also is the girl’s grandmother.
Summers said she saw McNeill and Davis hanging out together, but she didn’t think they were romantically involved. “To me, he ain’t nothing but a maggot. He’s going to get what comes to him,” Summers said outside court.
Earlier in the week, authorities said McNeill admitted taking the girl. Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine would not say during a news conference late Thursday whether McNeill admitted to the child’s death. See pictures of crime in Middle America.
A search warrant says McNeill picked the girl up in front of her home and drove her more than 30 miles to a hotel in Sanford, where she was last seen alive. Surveillance video captured McNeill carrying the girl in the building. “It is our sincere hope that the Davis family may now begin to put this horrific event behind them and begin the healing process,” Bergamine said.
Tomeka Gray, 20, who is dating McNeill’s brother, said the accusations don’t jibe with what she knows about him. She said McNeill was a good uncle and father who came to see her daughter in the hospital with an armload of baby items right after she was born earlier this year. “I’ve never known him to do anything like that,” Gray told The Associated Press. She said when she saw the story on the news her first thought was that she hoped authorities would catch the horrible person who did it. “And then to find out it was him … I was crying. I was shocked,” she said.
Meanwhile, Shaniya’s father, Bradley Lockhart, appeared on Friday’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” where Winfrey asked him if he had anything to say to Davis. He told The Associated Press earlier that he had cared for Shaniya for several years but decided to give Davis a chance to raise her because she seemed to be getting her life together. “Right now I just think it’s best that we let the justice system take its course,” Lockhart said on the show. “I try to keep my heart as pure as possible, and I’m sure one day I will be able to sit down and talk to her, try and understand what was going through her mind.”
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