McNeill trial delayed for medical evaluation - WNCN: News, Weather

McNeill trial delayed for medical evaluation

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

The trial of a man accused of raping and killing a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl is being delayed because a judge has ordered a medical evaluation for Mario McNeill.

McNeill is accused of the November 2009 death of Shaniya Davis.

Attorneys were scheduled to make their opening statements Monday afternoon, but the judge is putting the trial on hold in order for two hospitals to evaluate McNeill. The judge is expected to get a report Friday, and opening statements could begin next Monday.

"I have been handed a motion in regard to the capacity of the defendant to proceed," Judge James Ammons Junior announced in court Monday morning.

Ammons then said he had contacted two of North Carolina's state-operated psychiatric facilities. He mentioned that at least one doctor would be in Cumberland County to evaluate McNeill.

"In anticipation of this... I have contacted the Central Regional Hospital in Butner and also Cherry Hospital, and we're going to give those folks an opportunity to talk to the defendant. We anticipate that will take the balance of the week, with perhaps us holding a hearing on Friday," Ammons said.

Monday morning was supposed to begin with a motions hearing centered on evidence that the prosecution would like to mention during opening statements. That hearing was also delayed until Friday.

McNeill faces several charges, including murder, rape of a child, child abuse, human trafficking and sexual servitude. Prosecutors say he took Davis to a motel in Sanford in Nov. 2009. They believe he raped and killed the girl before dumping her body along Highway 87.

He could face a death sentence if convicted. He maintains his innocence and declined a plea deal that would have offered him a life sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Jury selection finished last Thursday. There are eight women and four men on the jury, and 3 of the four alternates are women.

Testimony from dozens of witnesses could push the trial well into June, so long that court is only scheduled Mondays through Thursdays.

"Take Fridays off so that the attorneys can have the opportunity to return to their offices and handle the matters that have to be handled," Judge James Ammons Jr. told the court.

Davis' father and McNeill's mother have already been in court. Because some testimony and evidence could be difficult to see or hear, Judge Ammons has issued a warning for everyone involved.

"I'm not going to tolerate any outbursts in the courtroom. If something is happening in the courtroom, and you don't like it, or it upsets you, you need to leave," he told the court.

Davis' mother also faces charges that she sold her daughter to pay a drug debt. Antoinette Davis hasn't been tried yet.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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