NC searchers find body of missing 5-year-old girl

Liz De La Torre

From The Associated Press

SANFORD, N.C. – Searchers found the body of a missing 5-year-old off a road Monday, ending a weeklong search for the girl, whose mother was accused of offering her for sex, police said.

Fayetteville Police spokeswoman Theresa Chance told The Associated Press that searchers found Shaniya Davis’ body southeast of Sanford in central North Carolina.

Two people have been charged in her disappearance, including her mother, Antoinette Davis, 25. Police charged Davis with human trafficking and felony child abuse, saying Shaniya was offered for prostitution. A first court appearance for Davis was scheduled Monday afternoon, and police said she did not yet have an attorney.

Authorities also charged Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, with kidnapping after they said he was seen in surveillance footage carrying Shaniya at a Sanford hotel. Authorities said McNeill admitted taking the girl, though his attorney said he will plead not guilty.

Davis reported Shaniya missing last Tuesday. The investigation first led to the arrest of a man named Clarence Coe, but charges against him were dropped a day later when investigators tracked down McNeill after getting a tip from a hotel employee.

Additional information led investigators to a search site near Sanford on Sunday. They continued searching Monday, scouring miles of landscape, roads, ravines and fields on four-wheelers and with helicopters.

Syd Severe, 42, who came down from Raleigh to help in the search, said he doesn’t believe in the death penalty but feels the culprits in this case deserve it.

“We were hoping that someone could carry her home,” Severe said. “It’s just sick.”

After Shaniya’s body was found, a solemn group of searchers met quietly at a nearby fire station to ensure that all volunteers were accounted for.

Her father, Bradley Lockhart, said he raised his daughter for several years but last month decided to let her stay with her mother. He had pleaded for her safe return.

“I should’ve never let her go over there,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Before Shaniya’s body was found, he said on CBS’s “The Early Show” Monday that he remained hopeful someone would bring his daughter somewhere safe, such as a police station or hospital.

“They can drop her off at Walmart, I don’t care,” he said.