NC dad defends letting mom take girl later slain

AP News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2009 2:25 PM

The father of a North Carolina girl who was kidnapped and killed said Tuesday he made the best decision he could at the time when he let her live with her mother, who has since been charged with prostituting the child.

Bradley Lockhart said during an interview on NBC's "Today" show that he regrets how the decision turned out, but thought he was making the right choice for the daughter he had raised himself.

"We obviously make decisions in life that sometimes have repercussions or adverse situations that drift from our decision. We just have to continue to believe in God and hope that our decisions are the correct ones," he said.

Lockhart said he last saw Shaniya in early October as he left for an out-of-state work assignment. The girl moved in with Antoinette Davis, 25, about a week later after initially staying with Lockhart's sister, he said.

The father said he spoke to Davis after she reported the girl missing Nov. 10. Police said she was killed the same day. Lockhart said he hasn't spoken to Davis since she was charged last week with human trafficking and child abuse by prostitution of her daughter.

Mario McNeill, an aquaintance of Davis, is charged with murder, rape and kidnapping.

Lockhart said he didn't think he missed any warning signs that Shaniya would be at risk if he accepted Davis's request to help raise the girl. He has said Davis struggled financially over the years, but she had recently obtained a job and her own place.

"I don't think I really missed any (signs). Of course there's always speculation. There's always things you could look at and say, well maybe, maybe not," Lockhart said.

The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force will review contacts the Cumberland County Department of Social Services had with Davis, who also has a 7-year-old son, The Fayetteville Observer reported Tuesday.

"This is a family that was already known to social service workers down there," task force co-chairman Tom Vitaglione said. "They are all very distraught about the whole thing."

The task force is charged with investigating every child death in the state, said Kevin Kelley a spokesman for the state's child welfare services. It will not begin looking into the Davis case until all criminal actions have been resolved or until a year after Shaniya's death, which ever comes later, Kelley said.

The task force will look at when local social services workers first contacted the family, the status of the case and whether proper procedures were followed, Vitaglione said. Investigators also will consider the impact of state and local budget cuts on social service agencies, he said.

"Child protective service divisions have been hit particularly hard," Vitaglione said.

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Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, http://www.fayobserver.com