It’s finally time for Shaniya Davis’ accused killer to face a judge and jury!
The father of Shaniya Davis says he has forgiven her mother.
But Bradley Lockhart said he often finds himself reflecting on what might have been, four years after Shaniya was sexually assaulted and killed in a case that has attracted national attention.
Shaniya would have turned 9 on Valentine’s Day.
“We were extremely close,” Lockhart said. “Shaniya spent the majority of time with me and her siblings. You miss those days. The first day she got on a bicycle. Her brother pushing her around with training wheels on it. You miss her scratching your car with a scooter. You miss birthdays. You wonder who she would be today.
“It’s extremely hard when you see other kids in the neighborhood and watch them grow up. That’s one of my frequent thoughts when I sit on my porch.”
The case first captured national attention in November 2009, when the child’s mother, Antoniette Nicole Davis, reported Shaniya missing from a mobile home where they were staying off Murchison Road.
The report kicked off a nationwide search involving the FBI and the U.S. Marshal’s Service. Pictures of Shaniya aired on national television shows, and Fayetteville police said they received hundreds of tips.
Shaniya’s body was found six days later.
Police say Davis fabricated the story about her missing child after selling Shaniya to McNeill, who allegedly assaulted her in a Sanford hotel before killing her and dumping her body along N.C. 87 in Harnett County.
Davis, 28, will be tried after McNeill. She faces charges that include first-degree murder, child abuse, sexual servitude, human trafficking and child sex assault. Her trial is expected to last about a month.
If convicted, Davis is looking at life in prison without parole.
She is accused of handing over the child to McNeill to settle a drug debt.
“I don’t know what was going through her mind at that time. I can’t give you an honest answer on that,” Lockhart said. “Would I ever have expected Antoniette to make a decision like this or did she make a decision like this? I would not have expected any mother to make a decision like this with their child.
“If I had known she would have made a decision like this, Shaniya would never have been there.”
Lockhart said he has not spoken to Davis since her confinement.
“Me, personally, I’ve forgiven her,” he said. “I think blame is too direct, as far as personally. What are you blaming? The death of Shaniya or (Davis’) actions? It’s too broad. Too opinioned.”
Lockhart spoke by phone late last month from his home in Alabama, where he says he had planned to move for a job before his daughter’s death. He works as a regional environmental safety manager for a construction company.
Through the years, he has returned to Fayetteville on occasion. He said he plans to be in the courtroom for most of the trials.
As far as he knows, Lockhart said, he will not be called as a witness.
Following Shaniya’s murder, Lockhart received criticism for allowing his daughter to stay with Davis in Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park.
Last month, Lockhart said he had no idea that Shaniya and her mother were living at that location with Davis’ sister.
“I had given her a deposit to live in her own place. It was downtown,” he said. “I had no knowledge of that. I still don’t know why she was at the other place. Was she evicted? I don’t know.”
Damn… We truly feel for this man. The capital murder trial for Mario Andrette McNeill, the man accused of killing Shaniya started today in Cumberland County Superior Court. Sadly it seems that much of mainstream national media has stopped checking for Shaniya’s story… The Observer says the court didn’t receive any requests from national cable media to cover the trial.
McNeill’s charges include first-degree murder, child sex assault, kidnapping, child abuse, human trafficking and sexual exploitation of a child and he is facing the death penalty. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.
In February, McNeill proclaimed his innocence in two handwritten letters he mailed to The Fayetteville Observer from the Cumberland County Detention Center.
In one letter, he wrote: “I did not take or kidnap Shaniya Davis. I did not purchase, buy, trade, sell or exchange Shaniya Davis. I did not molest, sexually assault, rape or ravish Shaniya Davis. I did not kill, murder, or take Shaniya Davis’s life, nor did I have any prior or beforehand knowledge as to what was to and/or did occur.”
Do you believe he should be put to death?