The father of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis told Oprah Winfrey today that the girl's mother trafficked the child to pay off a drug debt.
The allegation by Bradley Lockhart came a day after Mario Andrette O'Neill was charged with the rape and murder of Shaniya. O'Neill is the man police say is shown on a Sanford, N.C., hotel surveillance camera carrying Shaniya into a hotel room shortly after she was reported missing. He is being held without bond.
The girl's mother, Antoinette Davis, has been arrested and charged with child prostitution. Raleigh's ABC affiliate WTVD confirmed this week that Davis is again pregnant.
Davis' other child, a 7-year-old boy, was removed from her home last week, Fayetteville Police spokeswoman Theresa Chance told ABCNews.com, and is now in foster care.
Lockhart, appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" today via satellite and said he was told that Antoinette Davis had trafficked their daughter to pay off a drug debt.
Lockhart told Winfrey that the child was the result of a one-night stand and that Davis had raised Shaniya for the first year of her life before asking him to provide a more stable environment.
Custody, he said, "was a verbal agreement between Antoinette and I."
Shaniya's aunt, Carey Lockhart-Davis told Winfrey, "I am disgusted, but yet in so much pain at this point. She was such a vibrant child and such an important part of my life. And it's hard at this point to understand why someone would take this sweet blessing away from me."
Preliminary autopsy reports indicate Shaniya died from asphyxiation, according to the Fayetteville Police Department, though authorities are still waiting on a series of tests results before making a final conclusion.
Police Worked Round the Clock to Find Shaniya Davis
Shaniya's body was found Monday in a wooded area off Interstate 87 after authorities got a credible tip that her body may have been dumped in the area.
Police have said they believe Shaniya was alive when she left the hotel.
A spokeswoman from the FBI's Charlotte office confirmed the FBI had been called into support the local authorities.
Hundreds of people attended a vigil for Shaniya the day her body was found including her distraught father.
"I ask you to give me and everyone who loved poor Shaniya -- my little baby, my angel -- the strength to continue on," Lockhart told the crowd, according to WTVD.
Antoinette Davis' aunt Yvonne Mitchell told WTVD this week that she and other family members don't believe the woman is guilty and said there were no signs Shaniya was in danger with her mother.
"I didn't see any. Every time I seen her, the kids were happy. She seemed happy," Mitchell told WTVD. "If there was anything wrong, it was being hid very good because I didn't notice it."
Mark Logan, executive and director of the Polaris Project and the former U.S. ambassador to combat human trafficking, called the cases of parents pimping or selling their own children "extreme," especially when they are very young.
"It's frightening to learn about the age of entry into prostitution being 12 to 14," he told ABCNews.com today.
In general when parents traffic their own children, the fathers tend to be violent and abusive, while the mothers are typically desperate.
"But no poverty or economic desperation can along explain the prostitution of a child," he said.
Child Trafficking a Persistent Problem in the United States
While there are no numbers on how many young children are trafficked by their own parents, there are about 100,000 minors trafficked in the United States each year, Logan said.
Lois Lee, the founder and president of the non-profit Children of the Night, said drugs are often involved when mothers are found to have sold or traded their children.
But the trafficking of a 5-year-old is "very rare," Lee said. "And very rare that they would call it trafficking."
Children of the Night, marking its 30th anniversary this year, typically deals with children whose ages range from 11 through 17.
What makes Shaniya's case different is that she is not yet old enough to be considered to be "mobile," to run away on her own to escape a bad home life, Lee said.
When children are trafficked or pimped under the age of 11, she said, "usually the parents are involved."