Engineer links car soil to McNeill in girl's death

May. 14, 2013 @ 09:14 PM

A materials engineer testified Tuesday that soil found in the car of a man accused in the death of a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl matches soil found near her body.

Roberto Garcia, a lab manager at N.C. State University, told the court in Mario McNeill's murder trial that he examined three soil samples and found similar metals in a sample from the gas pedal in McNeill's car and an area near where Shaniya Davis' body was found in November 2009.

District Attorney Billy West asked Garcia if the metal in the soil came from a braided metal wire like that used in bicycle locks or cables used on 18-wheelers or in dressing deer.

"Who's testifying here?" demanded defense lawyer Terry Alford, repeating a frequent complaint that the prosecution was leading witnesses.

Another defense lawyer attacked the credibility of Heather Hanna of the N.C. Geological Survey, who'd testified that soil found in McNeill's car matched soil found along a road near where the body of Shaniya was found.

During a testy cross-examination, Butch Pope asked Hanna why she hadn't also examined soil from the brake pedal of McNeill's car. She said there wasn't enough soil there to analyze.

Pope asked Hanna why she hadn't named specific types of garnet in the soil samples.

"It's not important for me to name," she said. "Their composition is what's important to me."

"You do realize this is a murder case, right?" Pope said.

"Yes, I do," Hanna replied.

On Monday, prosecutors said the state anticipates entering evidence through Wednesday and possibly into Thursday. Ammons said he would rather break for the week at that time.

McNeill is being tried for the rape and murder of Shaniya, and dumping her body in woods in Lee County in November 2009. He could face death if convicted of first-degree murder.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.