FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The aunt of a 5-year-old girl whose body was found off a rural North Carolina road said Tuesday that she had a hard time letting the girl live temporarily at her mother's house because she believed the woman neglected her children.
Shaniya Davis had gone last month to stay for a while with her mother, 25-year-old Antoinette Davis, as part of an informal agreement with the father, Bradley Lockhart. Lockhart's sister said she helped raise the girl and was concerned about her moving in with her mother.
"Antoinette and I never really got along because of the way that she neglected her children," Carey Lockhart-Davis said. "I feel robbed. I feel that Shaniya was robbed."
Antoinette Davis is charged with human trafficking and felony child abuse. Her sister, Brenda Davis, has said she does not believe the charges and argued that Antoinette would not hurt her children.
Girl's body discovered Monday
Searchers discovered the girl's body Monday, nearly a week after her mother reported her missing from a mobile home park in Fayetteville.
Fayetteville police said Tuesday that additional charges will be filed in the case, though they did not offer more specifics. An autopsy was being conducted to determine how Shaniya died.
"She was just learning how to ride her scooter," Lockhart said at an emotional news conference.
Also charged in the case is Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, who was accused of kidnapping Shaniya after surveillance footage from a Sanford hotel showed him carrying the girl. Authorities said McNeill admitted taking the girl, though his attorney said he will plead not guilty.
"She was just learning how to ride her scooter," Lockhart said. "Every day was special with Shaniya."
He spoke briefly to reporters gathered outside his home Tuesday. Teddy bears, stuffed animals, balloons and flowers adorned the steps to the house. Lockhart stepped outside for brief comments and pleaded to the public to be vigilant in reporting crimes.
"I'm sorry baby you had to go through this," Lockhart said, choking back tears. "But you are in a better place and in better hands."
Reported missing a week ago
Shaniya's mother reported her missing a week ago, authorities said. Authorities initially arrested a man described as Antoinette Davis' boyfriend but then set him free after arresting McNeill. Information brought investigators 30 miles away from Fayetteville to a wooded roadside.
A dog trainer who was there when Shaniya's body was found said Tuesday that searchers initially overlooked the area because they saw only deer carcasses in trash bags. Jeff Riccio of Tarheel Canine Training Inc. said his team returned to the area after getting information that Shaniya's body might be near deer carcasses. The searchers found the body Monday afternoon underneath thick vines.
"It was nothing that anybody wants to see," Riccio said.
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