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Rape, murder defendant rejects deal for life sentence

FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — A man charged with raping and killing a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl more than three years ago rejected a plea deal that would have taken the death penalty off the table.

Mario McNeill, 32, rejected the offer Tuesday to plead guilty to the rape and murder of Shaniya Davis in 2009. Prosecutors had offered a sentence of life without parole in exchange for a guilty plea the day before.

McNeill’s decision to reject the offer means he could receive the death sentence if convicted of murder. It’s expected to take at least a week to seat the jurors and up to two months to try the case.

McNeill said Monday that he wouldn’t dispute that he left the Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park with Shaniya and that he took her to the hotel in Sanford and later left with her. He denied killing her.

An autopsy determined that Shaniya died of asphyxiation and that injuries she suffered were consistent with a sexual assault.

Her body was found in Harnett County on Nov. 16, 2009, six days after she was reported missing. Her mother, Antoinette Davis, also is charged in the case because prosecutors say she sold Shaniya to pay off a drug debt.

Potential jurors returned to the courtroom for resumption of jury selection after McNeill’s rejection of the plea deal was announced.

McNeill is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape of a child, 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.

Davis, 28, will be tried after McNeill on charges including first-degree murder, child abuse, sexual servitude, human trafficking and child rape. Her trial is expected to last about a month. If convicted, Davis faces life in prison without parole.

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