What happened to Shaniya Davis mom?

In November 2009, the disappearance of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis from her home in Fayetteville, North Carolina captured national attention. On November 10, Shaniya’s mother, Antoinette Davis, reported her daughter missing. A massive search ensued, but tragically on November 16, Shaniya’s body was found dumped along a rural road about 30 miles from her home. An autopsy later determined that Shaniya had been sexually assaulted and suffocated. The ensuing police investigation ultimately led to the arrest of Antoinette Davis and her then-boyfriend, Mario McNeill, for Shaniya’s kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. The case drew extensive media coverage at the time for both the shocking nature of the crime against a 5-year-old child, as well as accusations of negligence by social services who had previously been alerted to instability in Shaniya’s home life.

The Disappearance

On November 10, 2009, 5-year-old Shaniya Davis went missing from her home in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Shaniya’s mother, Antoinette Davis, reported her daughter missing that morning, telling police that when she woke up, Shaniya was not in the trailer they shared. An extensive search began immediately, with police combing the surrounding area and woods near the trailer park where Antoinette Davis lived. As news of Shaniya’s disappearance spread, volunteers also joined the search efforts to try and find the missing 5-year-old. Although Antoinette Davis initially cooperated with investigators, suspicion soon turned to her and her boyfriend, Clarence Coe, as it seemed unlikely someone could have taken Shaniya without her mother noticing.

The Investigation

The police investigation into the disappearance of Shaniya Davis began immediately after she was reported missing by her father on November 10, 2009. Fayetteville police quickly determined that surveillance footage showed Shaniya’s mother, Antoinette Davis, carrying the child into a motel room where Mario Andrette McNeill was staying.

An autopsy conducted by the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner found evidence that Shaniya had been sexually assaulted and smothered. DNA testing confirmed the presence of McNeill’s semen on Shaniya’s underwear and body. Additional forensic evidence indicated Shaniya was killed in the motel room where McNeill had been staying.

Based on the surveillance footage and forensic evidence, police believed Davis had provided her young daughter to McNeill who then sexually assaulted and murdered the child. Both Davis and McNeill were arrested within the first week of the investigation.[1][2]

Arrest of Antoinette Davis

Shaniya’s mother, Antoinette Davis, was arrested on November 14, 2009 and charged with human trafficking, felony child abuse – prostitution, filing a false police report, and obstructing a police investigation. Police alleged that Davis had offered Shaniya for prostitution. The charges indicated that Davis “knowingly provided Shaniya Davis with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude” and she “permit(ted) an act of prostitution.” (source)

Additional evidence showed Davis had searched online for “long term effects of child abuse” and she also attempted to delete incriminating images and videos from her phone after Shaniya’s disappearance. Phone records further revealed Davis called Bradley Lockhart, Shaniya’s father, 6 times the morning of her disappearance. However, none of the calls connected as Lockhart’s phone was turned off. (source, source)

Davis’ Trial

Antoinette Davis was tried on numerous charges regarding the death of her 5-year-old daughter Shaniya Davis. The trial began on October 21, 2013 at the Cumberland County Courthouse in North Carolina. Prosecutors presented evidence showing that Davis had arranged for her daughter Shaniya to have sex with Mario Andrette McNeill, who then kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered the young girl (Source).

The prosecution asserted that Davis allowed her daughter to be sexually abused in exchange for money from McNeill. Video evidence showed McNeill carrying Shaniya into a hotel room. DNA evidence also linked McNeill to the sexual assault. Prosecutors stated that Davis later concocted a fake kidnapping scheme with McNeill to cover up the abuse and murder of her daughter.

Defense attorneys for Davis argued that she was coerced by McNeill and did not willingly participate in trafficking her daughter. They claimed Davis initially believed Shaniya was just being taken for photographs. The defense tried to shift blame fully onto McNeill as the sole perpetrator.

Ultimately, the jury convicted Davis on charges of first-degree murder, indecent liberties with a child, felony child abuse, sex trafficking, and other related crimes. She was found guilty of facilitating the sexual abuse and subsequent death of her young daughter Shaniya.


On October 21, 2013, Antoinette Davis accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree sex offense, felony child abuse, indecent liberties with a child, prostitution, and human trafficking. She admitted to allowing her boyfriend, Mario Andrette McNeill, to take her 5-year-old daughter Shaniya to a hotel where he raped and murdered her. Davis also acknowledged that she had given her daughter to McNeill with the understanding that he would prostitute her for money.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop first-degree murder charges and not to seek the death penalty. Davis was sentenced to between 17 and 22 years in prison. The judge told Davis “You failed her. You failed her. You let her down.” (Fay Observer, 2013).

The outcome of the trial was that Davis was convicted of multiple serious charges relating to her daughter’s abuse, rape and murder. By accepting the plea deal, she avoided a potential death sentence but still received a lengthy prison term.


On October 18, 2013, Antoinette Davis accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, indecent liberties with a child, human trafficking, and child abuse charges involving sexual servitude. She was sentenced by Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons to 17 1/2 years to 21 years in prison, with credit for time served. She must serve at least 17 1/2 years before being eligible for parole.[1]

Davis’ plea deal allowed her to avoid a possible death sentence if convicted at trial. The sentencing judge told Davis, “You had the opportunity, the privilege, the responsibility to protect your child, to love your child, to keep your child safe…you failed”.[2] Davis apologized in court to her family and law enforcement for the time and resources spent on the case.

The sentencing marked the end of Davis’ involvement in the tragic case. She was transferred to serve her sentence at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh.

[1] https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/crime/2013/10/19/antoinette-davis-accepts-plea-deal/22102587007/

[2] https://abc11.com/archive/9291946/


In the years following the murder, Shaniya’s family continued to advocate for victims of violent crimes. Her father, Bradley Lockhart, started the Shaniya Speaks foundation to provide resources for families of missing children and give presentations about Internet safety and awareness.

Lockhart sued Harnett County Social Services for negligence in Shaniya’s case, alleging they ignored signs she was in danger. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2013 by a North Carolina judge who ruled social workers have immunity unless they act with malice or willful intent to harm.

Antoinette Davis was attacked in prison in 2011 by a fellow inmate, requiring stitches for a neck wound. She filed lawsuits in 2015 against North Carolina prison officials alleging her civil rights were violated by being held in solitary confinement.

In 2018, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld Mario McNeill’s conviction and death sentence. As of 2021, he remains on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina (source).


Shaniya’s murder had significant long-term impacts and sparked initiatives aimed at protecting children. Her tragic death led to the passage of “Shaniya’s Law” in North Carolina in 2013, which requires additional background checks for people seeking childcare jobs and tighter regulations for unlicensed daycare facilities. Shaniya’s case also prompted reviews of policies and procedures by local agencies like the Cumberland County Department of Social Services, to improve their interventions in cases of child abuse and neglect.

In the Fayetteville community and beyond, Shaniya’s memory served as an inspiration to take action to prevent similar tragedies. The Shaniya S. Davis Memorial Foundation was established to provide resources for families in crisis, and an annual 5K run/walk event is held in her honor to raise funds and awareness. Eight years after her murder, Shaniya’s case remains a touchstone illustrating the devastating consequences of child abuse and neglect, and the need for vigilance in protecting society’s most vulnerable.


The disappearance and death of Shaniya Davis was a heartbreaking tragedy that shocked the nation. While justice was ultimately served through the conviction and sentencing of Antoinette Davis, the loss of an innocent 5-year-old girl at the hands of her own mother is something no one can fully comprehend.

This case highlighted some of the darkest parts of humanity, from Antoinette Davis’ betrayal of her daughter to Clarence Coe’s despicable actions that led to Shaniya’s death. But it also showed the power of a community coming together to search for a missing child, and law enforcement’s dedication to pursuing justice no matter how difficult the investigation.

While the conclusion of the criminal case provided some closure, Shaniya Davis should always be remembered as the smiling, happy little girl she was before her life was cut tragically short. Her memory deserves to be honored, and her story should serve as a reminder that evil does exist in this world, but so does good – and in the end, good must prevail.