FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Authorities acted on a tip Sunday and scoured a portion of south-central North Carolina in hopes of finding a 5-year-old girl reported missing by her mother.
The girl's mother has been charged with human trafficking and other offenses.
Capt. Charles Kimble of the Fayetteville Police Department said several agencies started searching for Shaniya Davis at 8 a.m. in an area between Spring Lake and Sanford.
Kimble would not elaborate on what information officers had received.
“We're following up on a tip. It seems to be good, so we're out there looking,” Kimble said.
The N.C. Highway Patrol sent a helicopter to aid in the search, Lt. Everett Clendenin said.
Earlier Sunday, authorities arrested Antoinette Nicole Davis, Shaniya's mother. Fayetteville police said she faces a human trafficking charge, as well a child abuse charge involving prostitution and filing a false police report.
The child hasn't been seen since Tuesday, when surveillance footage recorded the man charged with kidnapping Shaniya carrying her into a hotel room.
Police did not say whether the charges against Davis were related to her daughter's disappearance, but The Fayetteville Observer reported that arrest records indicated they were.
According to arrest documents cited by the newspaper, Davis “knowingly provide(d) Shaniya Davis with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude” and she “permit(ted) an act of prostitution.”
Shaniya had only been living with her mother since last month. Davis reported the girl missing Tuesday morning from a mobile home community in Fayetteville, and authorities began searching nearby wooded areas. The following day a man described as Davis' boyfriend was charged in the kidnapping, but the charges were later dropped and he was released.
Police then said a hotel worked spotted a child matching Shaniya's description at a Sanford hotel about 40 miles from Fayetteville on Tuesday. Authorities reviewed surveillance video and, after speaking with family members, confirmed the child's identity.
Surveillance footage showed Mario Andrette McNeill carrying Shaniya into a hotel room, and he was arrested and charged with kidnapping Friday.
Authorities have said McNeill admitted to taking the girl, though his attorney says he will plead not guilty to the charge. They have not said if McNeill and Davis knew each other.
Fayetteville police officer Brian Gainey said Davis did not have an attorney and was scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Shaniya's father, Bradley Lockhart, told The Associated Press he raised his daughter for several years but last month decided to let her stay with her mother.
“I should've never let her go over there,” he said Saturday night.
Lockhart said he did not know McNeill.