State rests case against Mario McNeill, accused in rape and murder of Shaniya Davis

May 16, 2013 10:41:38 AM PDT
Prosecutors rested their case against Mario McNeill Thursday in his trial for the alleged 2009 rape and murder of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis. McNeill's defense said he will not testify and rested its case without presenting any evidence.

Prosecutors allege McNeill took the child from her home in the early morning hours of November 10, 2009 to rape her at a motel in Sanford before killing her and dumping her body in an area known to be a place deer hunters dump carcasses just off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett County line. Searchers finally located the child's remains after getting a tip on where to look from McNeill's former attorneys.

After prosecutors rested their case Thursday, the defense asked all prior motions be reconsidered.

"Those are all denied," said Judge Jim Ammons.

Ammons gave the defense time to confer with McNeill to decide whether it would present evidence. The judge then spoke directly to McNeill about testifying.

"I want to make it clear to you that it's not up to me. I have no opinion on whether you should testify or not," said Ammons. "You should think long and hard before you make this decision."

"Do you have any questions about this right?" asked.

McNeill said he did not.

With the defense deciding McNeill won't testify and no evidence of its own to present, closing arguments are set for Tuesday.

On Wednesday, jurors listened to a nearly six-hour video tape of police interrogating McNeill before he was charged.

The decision to show the entire interrogation tape to the jury was McNeill's. Prosecutors had wanted to play the most relevant clips, but McNeill demanded jurors see the entire video. McNeill's lawyer didn't want the tape shown, saying the defense and its client were at odds over the issue.

In the interview, the 32-year-old McNeill initially denies knowing Davis. He said he knew the family, but didn't know that her mother Antoinette Davis had a daughter.

Surveillance video from the Sanford hotel show McNeill carrying the child towards an elevator, but when he spoke with detectives, he initially denied it was him. About two hours into the interview, McNeill changed his story and admitted to taking Shaniya to the hotel after getting a text message from her aunt asking him to hand her off to somebody.

"I didn't think it would go this far," he said.

A detective and a police investigator said McNeill's story sounded implausible, and an FBI agent said a log of texts to and from McNeill's cell phone didn't jibe with his story.

"You take a child you've never seen before, drive her to Sanford and then come back to Fayetteville and give her to people you didn't even know?" the unidentified investigator asked during the interview.

"We have no proof that you gave her to somebody else. You need to help me figure out who this person is," the detective said.

"I don't know. I don't know. I don't know," McNeill said as police repeatedly asked him where Shaniya was.

"You killed that baby, didn't you?" the detective asked.

"No, no, no," McNeill insisted.

McNeill could be sentenced to death if convicted. Antoinette Davis is accused of giving her daughter to McNeill to settle a drug debt. She has not been tried.

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