Sanford is about 40 miles north of Fayetteville. Police did not say if they were looking for a body or if they hoped to find Shaniya Davis alive.
Witnesses told ABC11 Eyewitness News they saw officers searching a ravine in that area at around 10 a.m, Sunday. A State Highway Patrol official confirms their helicopter also aided in the search.
News of the search came a day after Shaniya's mother Antoinette Davis, 25, was charged in her disappearance Tuesday.
Davis is charged with human trafficking, felony child abuse, prostitution, filing a false police report, and resisting, delaying, or obstructing police.
On Friday, 29-year-old Mario Andrette McNeill was also charged in the case. Police said McNeill was taken into custody after they got a tip from a hotel in Sanford that he had been there with Davis the same morning her mother reported her missing. Detectives said surveillance video at the Comfort Inn showed the man carrying the girl towards an elevator at 6:11 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Fayetteville police spokeperson Theresa Chance said McNeill turned himself in Thursday night and has been questioned. She said he admitted to taking Davis.
McNeill has an extensive criminal background. An ABC11 check of his record turned up convictions for selling illegal drugs, assault, shooting into an occupied home, and more.
He was arraigned on first-degree kidnapping charges Friday and was ordered held on $100,000 bond. His lawyer said he would enter a not guilty plea.
Anyone having any information on the current whereabouts of Shaniya Davis is urged to contact the Fayetteville Police Department at (910) 433-1856. To leave an anonymous tip, call Crime Stoppers at (910) 483-8477.