Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine announced Friday that 5-year-old Shaniya Davis’ cause of death was apparently asphyxiation, according to the preliminary medical examiner’s autopsy report. According to the Fayetteville Observer, Mario Andrette McNeill, the 29-year-old last seen with Shaniya Davis and charged with her kidnapping, was charged with her rape and murder as well. The second person held on charges connected to the disappearance of Shaniya Davis, her mother, Antoinette Davis, has not been additionally charged as yet. The 25-year-old was charged with felony child abuse related to child prostitution and human trafficking on Saturday.
Chief Bergamine stated that it was now time for the family to begin healing.
Bradley Lockhart, Shaniya Davis’ father, raised his daughter for most of her short life. He allowed her stay with her mother just a month ago, telling authorities that he had thought her mother, who had struggled with drugs and finances for years, had become more responsible. But it seems that Antoinette Davis may have had an ulterior motive for asking Lockhart if she could try raising the child. Police are investigating into whether Antoinette Davis allowed Mario Andrette McNeill to take the girl “with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude” as a repayment of a debt.
Charges were kept in abeyance until jurisdiction of the crime could be determined. Part of that determination depended on the cause of death. Once cause of death was established, Cumberland County (where Shaniya Davis was kidnapped) and Lee County (where the body of the 5-year-old was recovered) could then attempt to establish where the child was murdered. It was established that Shaniya Davis was killed by asphyxiation sometime after leaving a Comfort Suites hotel in Sanford, North Carolina, and where her body was discarded along Highway 87. Asphyxiation occurs when an individual is deprived of oxygen. In the case of Shaniya Davis, the details as to the cause of death are as yet undisclosed.
Cumberland County was given jurisdiction in the case.
With further charges brought against Mario Andrette McNeill, it remains to be seen as to whether or not additional charges will be filed against Antoinette Davis. The possibility exists, considering that she is alleged to knowingly have sold Shaniya Davis into what amounts to sexual slavery, that she could be hit with a lower level murder/manslaughter charge or a charge of recklessness that precipitated her child’s death. Whether Cumberland County is intent on pursuing further charges against Antoinette Davis, however, has not been disclosed as yet.
But whether or not Antoinette Davis is further charged hinges on what she knew about Mario Andrette McNeil before and after he took the child from her home in Fayetteville. Marion Andrette McNeill told police that he picked the 5-year-old up at her trailer the morning of November 10. The time his image is captured on surveillance footage from the Comfort Suites hotel is 6:11 a.m. Antoinette Davis would call Fayetteville Police at 6:53 a.m. and tell them Shaniya Davis was missing. Although a worker at the Comfort Suites hotel in Sanford called police and notified them that he had seen a little girl fitting Shaniya Davis’ description at the hotel, by the time authorities showed up, Mario Andrette McNeill and the child were gone. Police acknowledged that the child was alive when she left the hotel about one and a half hours after arriving.
Mario Andrette McNeill turned himself in to Fayetteville Police early Friday morning, admitting that he had taken the girl. He would not admit to kidnapping. However, later that afternoon, he was charged with first-degree kidnapping.
The next day, Antoinette Davis was arrested for human trafficking, felony child abuse, child prostitution, filing a false police report and obstructing an investigation.
Police were able to find Shaniya Davis’ body from information given them by McNeill.
Mario Andrette McNeill was held without bail at the Cumberland County jail. He was placed in isolation for his own protection after cause of death allowed authorities to charge him with rape and murder.