Medical Examiner Confirms Child's Body is Shaniya Davis

Police say they have "new information" on the Shaniya Davis case.

November 16, 2009, 12:04 PM

Nov. 17, 2009— -- The announcement was expected, yet it still had a funereal sadness when a medical examiner confirmed today that a body found in the woods was that of missing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis.

At the same time, Fayetteville police said they had "new information" about the case, prompting them to cancel a news conference scheduled for lthis afternoon. Police did say that additional charges are expected to be filed in the case.

The autopsy was to be performed in Chapel Hill at the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a spokeswoman told today. Police said a cause of death had not yet been determined.

A spokeswoman from the FBI's Charlotte office confirmed the FBI had been called into support the local authorities, but would not comment on when they were contacted and why North Carolina officials waited for the FBI to arrive before removing Shaniya's body from the scene.

Shaniya's mother, 25-year-old Antoinette Davis was charged over the weekend with human trafficking and child prostitution. She appeared in court Monday where the judge told her she faced a possible 98 months in prison. That was before the child's body was found.

Another man, Mario McNeill, who police say was seen on a surveillance video carrying Shaniya into a Sanford, N.C., hotel shortly after she disappeared last week. He has been charged with first-degree kidnapping and is being held on $100,000 bond.

Police today said they believe Shaniya was alive when she left the hotel.

Hundreds of people attended a vigil for Shaniya Monday night, including her distraught father, Bradley Lockhart.

"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 Raleigh's ABC affiliate WTVD.

A Facebook page set up in her honor, Pray for Shaniya Nicole Davis, had more than 5,500 fans this morning.

"My heart goes out to Shaniya's family. May her soul rest in peace!" one woman wrote. "How could someone be so cruel? R.I.P."

Fayetteville Police Department spokewoman Theresa Chance said Monday the child's body was discovered in a wooded area off of Interstate 87 near Sanford, N.C.

Chance declined to say that body was that of Shaniya, saying only, "It seems to be a child."

"We have no positive identification yet," Chance said.

Police Worked Round the Clock to Find Shaniya Davis

Police found the body through "information from a credible source and that is what led us to Walker Road," where the child's remains were buried amid a thick tangle of brush, downed branches and trees.

Authorities had been working around the clock trying to bring the little girl to safety, Chance said.

"This is very hard on the officers," she said. "They have their own small children. Everyone thinks 'What if this was my child?'"

"Everyone is very tired, very tired and worn out," she said.

Antoinette Davis' aunt Yvonne Mitchell told WTVD 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 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.

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.

"Most of them are runaways or throwaways," he 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.

Shaniya Davis Is Younger Than Most 'Trafficking' Victims

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."

Chance declined to comment on a possible connection between Davis and McNeill. A third man, Clarence Coe, has been arrested in the case, charged last week with kidnapping. The charges were later dropped, according to police, after interviews with McNeill.

Davis' other child, a 7-year-old boy, was removed from her home last week, Chance said, and is now in foster care.

Shaniya's father told the Associated Press this weekend that the little girl, the product of a one-night stand with Davis, had lived with him until recently.

Lockhart said he decided to give Davis a chance to raise their daughter after she showed him that she was getting back on her feet financially and had her own home where Shaniya could live with her.

"I should've never let her go over there," he told the AP.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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