Mario McNeill, the man accused of raping and murdering 5-year-old Shaniya Davis in November 2009, turned down a plea deal Tuesday morning and maintained his innocence.
On Monday, McNeill admitted to some of the accusations against him. But he maintains he did not harm Davis.
"As to the plea, we met with Mr. McNeill yesterday after court and again this morning," said McNeill's attorney, Harold "Butch" Pope. "He maintains his innocence. So we respectfully decline the plea offer."
On Tuesday, defense attorneys turned down an offer of life in prison.
Judge James F. Ammons Jr. responded, "Alright. Part of the reason I asked that the plea be held up until this morning was to give him, first of all, an abundance of time to talk it over with his lawyers and also to make sure that I understood where we were going. ..."
"The requirement that I have had that the plea offer remain open has now expired. However, plea negotiations are between the defense and the prosecution from here forth. Nothing I've said, or have done, is going to impinge on that in any way. At this time is everybody ready for trial?"
Both the defense and prosecution said they were.
McNeill is also charged with child abuse, human trafficking and sexual servitude. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
McNeill admitted he took Davis from her home in Fayetteville in 2009 and admits he was with her at a motel in Sanford, and that he left her. Prosecutors say he did more - raping and killing her and dumping her body.
Prosecutors claim McNeill killed Davis and dumped her body along Highway 87 in Harnett after assaulting her at a hotel in Sanford. Investigators believe Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Davis, sold her child to McNeill because she owed him money for drugs. Antoinette Davis is scheduled for a later trial.