Officers from the V.I. Police Department helped solve a sad mystery Monday when they found the body of a missing 5-year-old girl off a wooded back road in rural North Carolina.
The five officers were on a mission in North Carolina with members of the Sanford Police Department, training with patrol dogs, when they discovered what Sanford police believe to be the body of Shaniya Davis, who disappeared from her Fayetteville mobile home on Nov. 10.
“Our officers discovered a body, yes,” VIPD spokeswoman Melody Rames said Tuesday morning.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, Rames said the officers searched a 100 acre wooded, checking creeks, around trailer parks and other residential areas, but found nothing. On their way back to the training facility a resident approached them, telling them the suspect had confessed and said where the body could be found, according to Rames.
Jeff Riccio, a dog trainer with Tarheel Canine Training Inc., was with the VIPD officers when they found the body Monday.
“We went to look for the command post on Walker Road … and we smelled something,” Riccio said, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
“One of the guys from the Virgin Islands, one of the guys who wasn’t handling the dogs, said, ‘I think I found something,’” Riccio told the Observer. A police dog focused on a spot where they eventually found the body, Riccio said.
“It was both relieving and terrible at the same time,” Riccio said, according to the Observer.
Volunteers who had spent nearly two days searching for Shaniya wept upon learning a body had been found, the Fayetteville paper reported Tuesday. Locals held a vigil Monday night, and CBS reported the event on its online news program.
CBS News also reported that the police believe the girl’s mother, 25-year-old Antoinette Davis, had allowed her to be taken for “sexual servitude.”
Davis is charged with human trafficking, felony child abuse involving prostitution and making a false police report, according to the Charlotte Observer Tuesday. She faces 40 years in prison if convicted on the charges and is in jail with bail set at $51,000.
Fayetteville local Mario McNeill, 29, was charged with kidnapping Shaniya after a surveillance video caught him carrying the girl toward an elevator at a motel in Sanford the morning her mother reported her missing.
Rames identified the VIPD officers as Jason Viveros, Heraldo Charles, Aaron Hodge and Julio Mendez, as well as detective Cornel Esprit. They were designated as “search team 17.”