Mario McNeill to undergo mental evaluation
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- The trial for 32-year-old Mario McNeill - the man accused of killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis- has been postponed for at least a week while the defendant's mental "capacity to proceed" is evaluated by doctors.
A jury is already seated in the trial, and lawyers were expected to make their opening statements Monday morning. Judge Jim Ammons has now adjourned the case until Friday while the mental evaluation is done to determine if McNeill is capable of assisting in his defense.
The doctors who will examine McNeill are from Central Regional Hospital in Butner and Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro.
The move came after Judge Ammons unexpectedly cleared the courtroom for a closed hearing last Friday. What was discussed was not announced.
"The matter has come to my attention that requires me, in the interest of justice, with no available means to me, to require this court to be closed to everyone except the parties that are involved," the judge explained.
After the delay in the case was announced Monday, Shaniya's father told ABC11 he's frustrated.
"Honestly, I feel like he's just playing games. It's just another delay," said Bradley Lockhart.
McNeill could face the death penalty in the 2009 kidnapping, rape and murder of the child. He faces first-degree murder, first-degree rape of a child, first-degree kidnapping, human trafficking with a child victim, sexual servitude with a child victim, sexual offense of a child and indecent liberties with a child charges.
Authorities said the girl's body was dumped just off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett County line.
The trial is expected to be lengthy, with the state alone expected to argue two to three weeks. The state has 357 tagged exhibits.
Jury selection finished last Thursday. There are eight women and four men on the jury, and three of the four alternates are women.
The state had requested a fourth alternate to be safe.
Shaniya's mother also faces charges that she sold her daughter to pay a drug debt. Antoinette Davis hasn't been tried yet.
cumberland county, shaniya davis, local/state
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