Local/State

Mario McNeill found competent to stand trial

Friday, April 26, 2013

Doctors took the witness stand Friday to talk about the mental state of 32-year-old Mario McNeill - the man accused of raping and killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis in 2009.

McNeill's trial was postponed earlier this week while the defendant's mental "capacity to proceed" was evaluated by psychiatrists from Central Regional Hospital in Butner and Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro.

The move came after a jury was already seated - and lawyers were expected to make their opening statements Monday morning when Judge Jim Ammons unexpectedly adjourned the case.

First on the witness stand Friday was Dr. James Hilkey who told the judge he has recently diagnosed McNeill with three personality disorders: narcissistic, anti-social and schizotypal. Hilkey said McNeill has been tapping into a deity named "Sophia" and believes he has supernatural powers to see the future.

McNeill's defense asked for the evaluation after expressing concern about his ability to assist in his defense. It grilled Hilkey on why he never saw schizotypal warnings during five evaluations prior to last Saturday - when Hilkey spent two hours with him.

Prosecutors also asked why McNeill has not shown mental issues in the years he's been awaiting trial.

Hilkey testified McNeill didn't want mental tests because of his desire "to get on with the trial."

The defense says McNeill denies being mentally ill, and accuses the doctor of telepathically altering his mental evaluation.

Hilkey said he believes McNeill's mental condition would impair his ability to help in his defense.

McNeill has rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors that would spare him a possible death sentence and give him life in prison instead. His lawyers say McNeill continues to maintain he's innocent.

The doctor testified Friday that McNeill told him he has special connection with three jurors and predicts two jurors will get sick during 2nd/3rd weeks of the trial. He said McNeill predicted over the weekend there's an 11.4% chance he'd be acquitted, based on his "connection" to jurors.

The third doctor on the stand - Dr. Steven Peters from Cherry Hospital - said he agrees with Dr. Hilkey in diagnosis of three personality disorders, but said McNeill is perfectly capable and intelligent enough to stand trial and assist his counsel during the trial.

In his rebuttal, defense attorney Terry Alford said "it's a little beyond narcissism when we don't know who we're talking to..." to which the state objected and the judge sustained.

The fourth doctor - Greg Hazelrig from Central Regional also agreed McNeill is competent to stand trial.

After listening to all the testimony and the arguments from both sides Friday, Judge Ammons ruled the McNeill is competent to stand trial and said the defendant appears alert and attentive - pointing out he's verbally corrected his attorney at one point during jury selection.

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 charges.

Authorities said the girl's body was dumped just off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett County line.

The trial is expected to be lengthy, with the state alone expected to argue two to three weeks. The state has 357 tagged exhibits.

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

The state had requested a fourth alternate to be safe.

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

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(Copyright ©2014 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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cumberland county, shaniya davis, local/state
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