Local/State

McNeill found guilty of first-degree murder

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jurors reached a verdict in the trial of Mario McNeill Thursday, convicting him of first-degree murder in the 2009 killing of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis.

McNeill remained calm as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors say the 33 year old took the child from her home in the early morning hours of November 10, 2009 to rape her at a motel in Sanford before killing her and dumping her body in an area known to be a place deer hunters dump carcasses just off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett County line.

McNeill was found not guilty of first-degree rape of a child, but guilty of 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. He could get the death penalty during the sentencing phase of his trial.

Judge Jim Ammons told jurors to return Tuesday morning to begin hearing arguments and testimony in a sentencing hearing. He instructed them to try to enjoy the holiday weekend and "put the case out of their minds."

ABC11 spoke to Shaniya Davis' father, Bradley Lockhart, after the verdict was read.

"Painful. Painful. It's still extremely emotional," said Lockhart. "I still find myself lost at times. It's still very hard. Every time you have to revisit the pain just revisits."

Lockhart had nothing but praise for prosecutors.

"I think the D.A. put a great case together, and I felt really confident going into the verdicts," said Lockhart.

As for McNeill's fate, Lockhart said he's not a death penalty advocate, but he thinks there are times when it's justified.

"These crimes against children, these predators attacking these children is an epidemic out there and the only way to cure and epidemic is through extinction," said Lockhart. "So, if that is what we have got to do, then that's what we have got to do but that's not my choice."

Immediately after the verdict, Ammons denied defense motions to set aside the verdict, declare a mistrial, or sentence McNeill to life without parole.

Prosecutors have also charged Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Davis, with selling her daughter to McNeill to pay a drug debt. Davis hasn't been tried yet.

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cumberland county, shaniya davis, local/state
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