The Horrific Story Of Shaniya Davis, The Five-Year-Old Girl Who Was Sold By Her Mom

Published July 29, 2023
Updated July 31, 2023

On November 10, 2009, Shaniya Davis was sold by her mother, Antoinette Davis, to Mario McNeill to cover a $200 debt. Within 24 hours, the preschooler would be dead.

Shaniya Davis

National Center for Missing and Exploited ChildrenFive-year-old Shaniya Davis was raped and murdered by Mario Andrette McNeill in November 2009.

Shaniya Davis had been kidnapped. At least, that’s what her mother Antoinette Nicole Davis said. It was around 6 a.m. on November 10, 2009, when she woke her sister Brenda and Brenda’s boyfriend, Jeroy Smith, to tell them that Shaniya was missing. But she was hesitant to call the police. It took Brenda nearly an hour of urging for Antoinette to make the call.

Before Antoinette even made the call, Shaniya was seen on security camera at a nearby hotel. She was with a man. Roughly an hour and a half later, they were seen again on security footage; the man was carrying her out of the hotel.

The following day, police issued an Amber Alert for Shaniya, and hotel employees recognized her in the footage.

Eventually, they determined the man’s identity. He was Mario Andrette McNeill, Brenda’s ex-boyfriend. But the situation grew even darker when police interviewed Antoinette in the following days and she revealed to them that Shaniya had not been kidnapped, as she initially claimed. Shaniya had, in fact, been given to McNeill by none other than Antoinette herself — to settle debt of $200.

“All he was supposed to do was have sex with her,” Davis told a detective. A week later, police found Shaniya’s body under a log in the woods.

The Disappearance Of Shaniya Davis

Around 5:30 a.m. on November 10, 2009, Brenda Davis and Jeroy Smith woke to what sounded like someone trying to break into their mobile home. The sound stopped, but as the two were drifting off to sleep, Brenda’s sister Antoinette burst into their room and told them her daughter Shaniya was missing.

While Antoinette Davis went outside to look for Shaniya, her son told Brenda Davis and Smith that he had seen someone else in the home shortly beforehand. Brenda pleaded with her sister to call the police, and although Antoinette was hesitant to do so, she eventually made the call.

As the Fayetteville Observer reported, Antoinette Davis was interviewed several times by police over the following days. At first, she claimed to have had no idea what happened to Shaniya, but her story would quickly change.

By the time of her first interview with police, Shaniya had already been seen twice on security footage at a nearby hotel with a man police had not yet identified. Antoinette Davis offered them a name, but it was the wrong one. She accused her boyfriend. He was arrested shortly after.

It didn’t take long to figure out that he wasn’t the kidnapper, though. Antoinette Davis later confirmed that she had lied — the real kidnapper was a man named Mario McNeill.

Shaniya Davis Security Camera Footage

TwitterHotel security camera footage of McNeill carrying Shaniya.

On the night of November 9, McNeill had been at home with his girlfriend and young child. He had taken cocaine and drunk liquor all evening, then decided to start texting women in his phone. Eventually, this led him to text his ex, Brenda Davis.

She didn’t respond to him — her phone was turned off — but another woman who happened to live in the same trailer park did. McNeill made his way to the Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park, but the woman who responded to him had fallen asleep. Once more, he tried to text Brenda Davis. Again, she didn’t answer. It didn’t matter, though; McNeill knew how to get into the trailer.

Police had their man, but then came another shocking twist: McNeill hadn’t abducted Shaniya at all. Antoinette Davis herself had handed Shaniya off to him. The reason, she explained, was to settle a debt.

“I gave her to him to cover $200,” she said, weeping to investigators. “He was only supposed to have sex.”

Initial reports claimed that Davis owed McNeill money for drugs, though Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West later stated that this was not true. Rather, he said, McNeill had lent Davis $200 to buy food and pay for a hotel room when she and her children found themselves homeless. In either case, Davis didn’t have the money to pay McNeill back. The intoxicated man told her he either wanted money or sex — that’s when Davis offered him Shaniya. She was five years old.

Antoinette Davis

MurderpediaAntoinette Davis allowed her daughter to be taken for sex in exchange for a $200 debt.

Davis told investigators that she had tried to stop McNeill from taking Shaniya, but West stated that investigators did not believe her. They had found a feces-covered blanket in a trash can outside home, which suggested to them that Shaniya had been assaulted inside.

The second tragic twist in the story came when Shaniya’s body was found in the woods.

The Tragic Discovery Of Shaniya’s Body

During McNeill’s trial, he remarked that he didn’t remember where exactly he had left Shaniya. His lawyers said he left her somewhere along route 87 between Spring Lake and Stanford, near some green portable toilets. Police quickly found the area and began a massive search, which included officers from the Virgin Islands who were visiting North Carolina for dog handling training.

It was one of these officers who found Shaniya Davis’ body, hidden beneath a log. An autopsy would later reveal that she had been sexually assaulted and smothered.

McNeill was ultimately convicted, in May 2013, of kidnapping, murder, human trafficking, sexual servitude, taking indecent liberties with a minor, and sex offense of a child by an adult offender. He was sentenced to death.

Antoinette Davis, meanwhile, was pregnant at the time of her arrest. When she gave birth to the child, it was taken from her and put into foster care. She faced her own litany of charges, ultimately entering Alford pleas — not pleading guilty, but admitting that the state has adequate evidence to convict her — to second-degree murder, human trafficking, conspiracy, kidnapping, sexual offense, sexual servitude, and taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Mario McNeill

MurderpediaMario Andrette McNeill tried to appeal his death sentence in 2017. It was not overturned.

WRAL News later reported that Davis said, “I want to say I did the best I could with my children. I never said I was a perfect mother, but I was a good mother. I did what I had to provide for them. I did what I had to to make sure they were alright. I didn’t have any help from anybody.”

In response, Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons told her, “You could have saved your daughter’s life, and you did not. You had the time, the opportunity and the means to save Shaniya’s life, and you did not. You are not a good mother.”

She was sentenced to at least 17 years in prison and told she would have to be registered as a sex offender for at least 30. As of 2023, she is still serving her sentence.


After learning the sad story of Shaniya Davis, learn about the death of Maddie Clifton, the eight-year-old girl who was murdered by her 14-year-old neighbor. Then, read the disturbing story of Zachary Davis, the 15-year-old who killed his mother and tried to burn his brother alive.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Matt Crabtree
Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.