May this sick muhfugga rot in hell. We have been waiting for justice for Shaniya Davis for nearly four years and finally her killer has been sentenced.
Jurors on Wednesday took 39 minutes to recommend that Mario McNeill be sentenced to death for killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis in November 2009.
A few “Amens” could be heard from the side of the courtroom where members of Shaniya’s family were seated.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons didn’t waste time after sentencing the defendant. May God have mercy on your soul, he told him.
“Stand up, Mr. McNeill. You did not have to kill that child,” Ammons said. “Take him out of here now.”
McNeill, 33, was cuffed and hastily led from the courtroom by the bailiffs and extra security detail.
The verdict didn’t seem to faze McNeill, who appeared to mumble something to Ammons on the way out. He may have said, “I didn’t do it,” according to four observers in the courtroom.
Earlier, McNeill had declined the judge’s opportunity to speak to Shaniya’s family, his feet swinging beneath the defendant’s table as he told the judge, “No.”
Ammons then spoke to Shaniya’s family, including her 43-year-old father, Bradley Lockhart, and her half-sister, Cheyenne Lockhart.
“I apologize,” the judge said, as emotion began to flush his face. “I apologize for referring to Shaniya as the victim. For talking about Shaniya’s body. I apologize for your having to go through all of this. I can’t give you justice. The jury has given you what we as humans – the best, we as humans do is give you justice.
“I said a prayer for you every night of this trial, and I will continue to do so.”
Only one juror – alternate Melanie Baker, 42 – agreed to talk to reporters.
“This has been hard,” she said.”Throughout the proceedings,” she said, “we felt this was a game for him. Refusing to put on evidence and deciding not to testify. … There was no emotion on his face. All his laughing, giggling. There was no contrition or remorse.”
Bradley and Cheyenne Lockhart came forward when Ammons asked if anyone in the courtroom wanted to speak about Shaniya.
Cheyenne Lockhart thanked all of the family’s supporters.
It had been a long road, Bradley Lockhart said, and the verdict failed to produce a victory for anyone. Then he directed his words at the defendant:
“I think about those last seconds, and you was the last thing my daughter got to look at. Made a mockery of this court. Laughing, joking like this was a joke. Shaniya wasn’t a joke. Shaniya (affected) so many people. Not just my life, but so many people out there. And you tried to destroy it.
“But her legacy is going to live on. You didn’t win. I can be angry and hateful towards you. It’s not going to affect this problem. Shaniya won because she’s going to be speaking out and protecting against people like you.”
After a pause, he added again, “You didn’t win.”
Against the advice of his lawyers, McNeill asked that his lawyers not put on evidence, not present the mitigating factors to the jury and not give closing arguments during the sentencing phase of the trial.
Aggravating factors during the punishment phase included McNeill’s three previous felony assault convictions and his convictions in this case on kidnapping and sex offense charges.
Mitigating factors, which McNeill had allowed his lawyers to compile but not present, included his use of drugs and alcohol at the time of Shaniya’s kidnapping and death, the fact that he voluntarily went to the police to be interviewed after Shaniya was reported missing, and that he was a taxpayer.
On Tuesday, McNeill told Ammons that it didn’t matter to him – his lawyers arguing his case for life over death – since he had lost his goal of freedom.
“I wish we’d had a chance to talk to the jury about sentencing,” a soft-voiced Terry Alford said from a nearly cleared courtroom. “I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but they would have heard the whole story. I’m just disappointed we didn’t get a chance to do that.”
Harold “Butch” Pope, McNeill’s other lawyer, said it was important to note that the defense had “a mitigating investigator and pews full of witnesses to put on for him” during the final phase of the trial.
The defense has given notice that it intends to appeal the conviction and punishment.
In his closing argument, Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West urged jurors to sentence McNeill to death:
“No regard for Shaniya’s innocence,” he began. “No regard for Shaniya’s life. And absolutely no remorse.”
“That is what this defendant has done and how he conducted himself,” West said. “He showed no regard for her innocence. He kidnapped her from her home in the middle of the night of Nov. 10, 2009, and sexually assaulted a 5-year-old of the innocence of a child. He showed no regard for her life and left her alone on desolate Walker Road in Lee County. And he showed absolutely no remorse. A lack of conscience.”
West said the seven mitigating factors were insufficient to outweigh the prosecution’s five aggravating circumstances in determining their sentencing decision.
“The defendant,” he said, “could have dropped Shaniya off at a McDonald’s.”
Instead, West said, he killed her.
Last week, the jury found McNeill guilty of first-degree murder and five other charges in Shaniya’s death. Jurors returned a not guilty verdict on a charge of child rape.
McNeill also was found guilty of first-degree kidnapping, human trafficking with a child victim, sexual servitude with a child victim, sexual offense of a child and indecent liberties with a child.
Two other charges of sexual exploitation, which McNeill has said are related to images found on his cellphone, are pending. Those are separate charges from the seven he was tried on during the trial.
Authorities said Shaniya’s mother handed over her child to McNeill to settle a drug debt and then falsely reported her missing from their residence in the Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park.
The state said McNeill took Shaniya to the Comfort Suites in Sanford before assaulting her, killing her and dumping her body in a rural area of Lee County.
Davis, 28, faces similar charges to McNeill and is awaiting trial.
West said Davis’ trial could get under way by the fall. He anticipates a conference with Judge Ammons within the next month or so to discuss the trial schedule.
Davis does not face the death penalty.
Shaniya, you will never be forgotten. R.I.P.
They need to televise McNeill’s execution. Hats off to the jury for doing what needed to be done.