FAYETTEVILLE – A jury sentenced Mario McNeill to death for the 2009 murder of Shaniya Davis after they deliberated for about 45 minutes Wednesday to reach their decision.
Last week, a jury of eight men and four women found McNeill guilty of first-degree murder and five other charges in the death of Davis in November 2009, but acquitted him of raping her.
When the sentence was read, McNeill showed no emotion, but Davis' family sighed from relief. Shaniya Davis' father, Brad Lockhart, took the stand to address McNeill.
He said taking his little girl away from him will never be forgotten.
“Shaniya has touched so many people, not just my life, but so many people's out there, and you have tried to destroy it, but her legacy will live. You didn't win. I could be angry and hateful towards you, but its not going to fix this problem, you didn't,” said Lockhart.
Lockhart said it has been a long road, three years of agony for the family of friends of Davis. The trial has taken close to eight weeks including jury selection.
Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said it a small piece of relief to hear that jury members accepted their case.
“Shaniya certainly captured everybody's heart, the story captured everybody's heart and it certainly should. She was a beautiful little girl and it was terrible thing that happened to her and I felt that justice was done today,” said West.
McNeill asked his attorney's to not present any evidence or call any witnesses to the stand before jurors began their deliberations of his sentence. His attorneys said they are leaving this trial feeling empty and wondering if they could have done more.
“As defense lawyers we can't help but wonder would it have made a difference if we had been able to present the mitigating evidence you notice we had several rows of witnesses ready to call. We had a mitigation investigator been working on the case, to humanize Mario and show the jury his background, but he didn't allow us to put on that evidence,” said defense attorney Butch Pope.
Now McNeill is on his way to Central Prison in Raleigh, where he will sit on death row. McNeill's attorneys say they will appeal the sentence.