FAYETTEVILLE, NC — A North Carolina man has admitted to kidnapping a 5-year-old girl, authorities said Friday, but investigators still have not found the child more than three days after she disappeared from a mobile home park.
But the attorney for Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, said Friday that his client would plead not guilty to kidnapping Shaniya Davis. Fayetteville Police Department spokeswoman Theresa Chance said McNeill admitted taking the girl.
McNeill was charged with kidnapping while authorities dropped charges against another man, Clarence Coe, who was initially arrested in the case.
“We’re hoping we find her alive,” Chance said at a news conference. “We found Mr. McNeill, and Miss Davis was not with him.”
McNeill had a first court appearance Friday. Attorney Allen Rogers said he only spoke briefly with his client, adding that he did not know what connection McNeill may have had with Shaniya or her mother. He also did not comment on the child’s whereabouts.
Surveillance footage showed McNeill carrying Shaniya into a hotel room on Tuesday morning, when she was reported missing from a mobile home park. A hotel worker called police to report seeing a child matching Shaniya’s description, but by the time police got there, McNeill had left.
Investigators used police dogs but could not pick up the child’s scent during a search of the neighborhood. They found a blanket that may have belonged to the girl in a garbage can outside a neighbor’s home.
Shaniya’s father, Bradley Lockhart, made a tearful appeal Thursday for his daughter’s safe return.
“Shaniya, if you’re listening to daddy, I miss you so much, honey,” he said. “I’m waiting for you. I’m not going to give up. You don’t give up either, honey.”
McNeill’s next court date is Dec. 2.
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