Shaniya Davis case adds to calls for probation reform By Greg Barnes
State Sen. Tony Rand said the criminal history of a Fayetteville man accused of kidnapping 5-year-old Shaniya
Davis demonstrates the need for more tools to help probation officers do their jobs.
"That's why I have been raising hell and why we have put together this pilot project," said Rand, who announced
this month that he is stepping down as Senate majority leader to become head of the state's parole and probation
The pilot program, being set up in Raleigh, provides a database that allows law enforcement, probation officers,
court clerks, district attorneys, magistrates and others easy access to all criminal records. Rand said the
system should be operating by spring.
"If somebody is arrested, they can check to see if any other arrest warrants are out there," Rand said.
Under the current system, government officials aren't always able to share all the criminal information on one
The new system may have helped in the case of Mario Andrette McNeill, a Fayetteville man accused of kidnapping
Shaniya on Nov. 10. Shaniya's body was found Monday in woods south of Sanford. Law officials say more charges
McNeill has had a criminal history since 2001, when he was charged with shooting three people. He was sentenced
to supervised probation for the shootings as well as drug charges.
McNeill violated the terms of his probation and stayed in prison from October 2003 to May 2006.
He was charged with drug offenses shortly after getting out and was again sentenced to supervised probation. As
part of the sentence, McNeill was required to stay free of illegal drugs.
While on supervised probation, McNeill was charged with possessing cocaine and, a few months later, with striking
a police officer with his vehicle while trying to flee.
Despite those charges, a judge in November 2007 changed the status of McNeill's probation to unsupervised.
Wayne Marshburn, head of the probation system for Cumberland County, said probation officers may not have known
about the pending charges against McNeill when he was allowed to go on unsupervised probation.
In April 2008, Superior Court Judge Jack Thompson put McNeill back on supervised probation for hitting the officer
and the cocaine charge. Court records show that Judge E. Lynn Johnson terminated that probation on Oct. 22, six
months before it was set to expire.
Nineteen days later, police say, McNeill was captured on video carrying Shaniya into a Sanford motel. Her body
was found less than a week later.
Rand said he did not know the particulars of McNeill's case. But under the pilot system, he said, everyone
involved in the judicial system would have been able to share McNeill's history and could have made a different
determination of whether his probation status should have been changed or terminated.
"I think this kind of thing, more clearly than anything else, points out the needs to have this kind of
information," Rand said. "What we're trying to do is make everybody aware of the data we have concerning a person's
record or lack of record."
Rand was the sponsor of a new law that will give probation officers access to a person's juvenile records and
makes drug screenings a regular part of probation. The law will give investigators the power to make warrantless
searches in certain cases involving people on probation. The law takes effect Dec. 1.
Staff writer Greg Barnes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org