SANFORD, N.C. —Authorities who spent a week feverishly searching for a 5-year-old girl found her body Monday off a rural road following accusations the girl's mother offered her for sex.
The investigation into the disappearance of Shaniya Davis yielded the arrest of her mother and two other men, though one man was later released.
Searchers found Shaniya dumped in the woods 30 miles from her hometown in Fayetteville. Hundreds of volunteers hoping to find her alive left the site of the search dejected, unable to bring Shaniya home to an emotional father, her 7-year-old brother and the dolls she loved to play with.
Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Davis, 25, is charged with human trafficking and felony child abuse, and police say Shaniya was offered for prostitution.
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During a court appearance, Davis provided one-word answers to the judge's questions. She requested a court-appointed attorney and did not enter a plea.
Her sister, Brenda Davis, 20, said she does not believe the charges.
"I don't believe she could hurt her children," said Brenda Davis, who spoke with her sister at the jail Sunday. Davis' aunt, Yvonne Mitchell, said the mother had two jobs and would never harm the child.
Authorities also charged Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, with kidnapping after they said surveillance footage from a Sanford hotel showed him carrying Shaniya. Authorities said McNeill admitted taking the girl, though his attorney said he will plead not guilty.
Fayetteville police spokeswoman Theresa Chance declined to talk about additional charges. She also wouldn't comment on a cause of death or the condition of Shaniya's body, except to say that state investigators planned to retrieve it about 100 feet off the road.
"Detectives have been running off adrenaline to find this little girl and to bring her home alive," Chance said. "You have a lot of people in shock right now."
Davis reported Shaniya missing from a home last Tuesday. Authorities first arrested a second man, but charges against him were dropped a day later when investigators tracked down McNeill after receiving a tip from a hotel employee.
Additional information led investigators to a search site near Sanford on Sunday. They continued searching Monday, scouring miles of landscape, roads, ravines and fields on four-wheelers and with helicopters.
Shaniya's father, Bradley Lockhart, said he raised his daughter for several years but last month decided to let her stay with her mother. He had pleaded for her safe return.