Court docs: Shaniya Davis' aunt dated alleged killer

Mario McNeill appears in court for a pre-trial hearing Friday January 11, 2013. (Lou Guilette)
April 3, 2013 2:16:19 PM PDT
On Monday, the trial for one of the most notorious murder cases in the state in the last decade will begin.

In 2009, 5-year-old Shaniya Davis was given up by her mother to settle a drug debt. The little girl was raped and murdered and dumped in the woods.

Mario McNeill, her accused murderer, goes on trial Monday. In an attempt to delay the trial, stacks of last-minute motions were filed this week.

Through court documents, ABC11 learned that McNeill may have known Shaniya's family long before her murder.

Defense attorneys have requested a physical examination of the child's now 23-year-old aunt, who admits to dating McNeill for three months, prior to Shaniya's murder.

The state claims pornographic images of a minor were found on McNeill's cell phone. McNeill says the photos are of Shaniya's aunt. He denies the woman was a child at the time the pictures were taken. Shaniya's aunt denies that the photos are of her.  

Because of the pornography, McNeill faces second and third-degree child sexual exploitation charges, on top of numerous others related to Shaniya's kidnapping, rape, and murder.

A ruling this week has McNeill facing the child sexual exploitation charges once the murder trial is over.

Another defense request blames faulty Fayetteville Police Department equipment for gaps in McNeill's recorded interrogation following the murder. The defense suggests police questioned McNeill without advising him of his rights. The software consultant and company writes, someone physically pressed stop on the recorder and the DVD system had a bug.

The defense wants all of McNeill's interrogation statements thrown out of the trial. The judge will rule on that on Monday.

Also among the thousands of pages of motions was a handwritten note from McNeill to the Cumberland County Clerk's office, received in January. It reads:

"TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN,

THE HARD WAY IS HOW YOU WANT IT.

TISK TASK"

Dozens of witnesses will be called during the trial, which is expected to last three months.  Witnesses range from family members to detectives, and even investigators in the Virgin Islands.

Jury selection begins Monday and is expected to last two to three weeks.

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