SANFORD, N.C. (AP) - A missing 5-year-old whose mother was accused of offering her for sex was found dead off a heavily wooded road in a rural area Monday, ending a weeklong search. Searchers found Shaniya Davis' body southeast of Sanford, in central North Carolina, Fayetteville Police spokeswoman Theresa Chance told The Associated Press. Police did not say how she died. "We were hoping that someone could carry her home," said Syd Severe, 42, a volunteer who came from Raleigh to help with the search. "It's just sick."
Two people have been charged in her disappearance, one of them her mother, Antoinette Davis, 25. Police charged Davis with human trafficking and felony child abuse, saying Shaniya was offered for prostitution. A first court appearance for Davis was scheduled Monday afternoon, and police said she did not yet have an attorney.
Authorities also charged Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, with kidnapping after they said surveillance footage from a Sanford hotel showed him carrying Shaniya there. Authorities said McNeill admitted taking the girl, though his attorney said he will plead not guilty. Davis reported Shaniya missing on Tuesday.
The investigation first led authorities to arrest a man named Clarence Coe, but charges against him were dropped a day later when investigators tracked down McNeill after receiving a tip from a hotel employee. Additional information led investigators to a search site near Sanford on Sunday. They continued searching Monday, scouring miles of landscape, roads, ravines and fields on four-wheelers and with helicopters. After Shaniya's body was found, a solemn group of searchers met quietly at a nearby fire station to ensure that all volunteers were accounted for.
A cluster of emergency vehicles and law enforcement personnel gathered where Shaniya's body was found, about a quarter mile from N.C. Highway 87. Authorities blocked access to the road, a rural area popular with hunters that is less than a mile from a large lakeside community. Shaniya's father, Bradley Lockhart, said he raised his daughter for several years but last month decided to let her stay with her mother. He had pleaded for her safe return. "I should've never let her go over there," he told The Associated Press on Saturday. Before Shaniya's body was found, he said on CBS's "The Early Show" Monday that he remained hopeful someone would bring his daughter somewhere safe, such as a police station or hospital. "They can drop her off at Walmart, I don't care," he said. No one answered the phone at his home Monday afternoon. --- Associated Press Writer Mike Baker in Raleigh contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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