In Cumberland County Superior Court on Friday, Antoinette Davis agreed to guilty pleas for charges related to the 2009 kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of her daughter Shaniya Davis.
Davis entered an Alford plea, which means she doesn't admit guilt but realizes evidence could convict her.
She pleaded guilty to nine charges: second-degree murder, human trafficking, felony child abuse with prostitution, conspiracy to commit sex abuse of a child by an adult offender, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual offense, sexual servitude, felony child abuse involving a sex act and taking indecent liberties with a child. The kidnapping and conspiracy charges were new as of this week. Her sentence ranges from a minimum of 17 years and 6 month to a maximum of 21 years and 9 months in prison.
Before accepting the plea deal Judge James Ammons Jr. gave Davis time to speak.
"I never said I was a perfect mother but I was a good mother," Davis said. "I did what I had to do to provide for them. I did what I had to make sure they were alright because I didn't have any help from anybody."
Police say she sold five-year-old Shaniya to pay Mario McNeill for a $200 debt. Before the plea deal on Friday, a motions hearing revealed that Davis told police "He was just supposed to have sex with her. That's it."
Judge James Ammons Jr. ruled Friday morning that Davis' statements to police would not be suppressed because she made them voluntarily. Davis' attorney D.W. Bray argued Davis was "bullied" and intimidated into saying she knew McNeill had taken her daughter.
Davis apologized directly to Shaniya's father Brag Lockhart who was in the courtroom. She said she should have never taken Shaniya from living with him and his family. She said she made that bad decision because of pride.
However, Davis did not admit to giving Shaniya to McNeill. Bray said she felt morally responsible for Shaniya's death but not criminally responsible because she did not allow her child to be taken.
Lockhart also took a moment to speak, and he addressed Davis directly saying, "I forgave you a long time ago, and I'm sure Shaniya did too."
He said that maybe Davis could help others by sharing her story.
After approving the plead deal Ammons also addressed Davis.
"You could have saved your daughter's life, and you did not," Ammons said. "You had the time, the opportunity and the means to save Shaniya's life, and you did not. You are not a good mother. This did not have to happen."
Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said the state never had evidence of any debt that Davis owed McNeill. That is one reason he agreed to a plea deal. He said he believed Davis owed McNeill the money because he had paid for a hotel room and food when Davis and her children were homeless. He said statements in an autopsy report that the debt was for drugs were false.
The body of Shaniya Davis was found on Nov. 16, 2009, six days after she was reported missing.
McNeill was sentenced to death in May after being found guilty of six of seven charges in the death of Shaniya Davis. McNeill was accused of raping and killing the 5-year-old, but jurors did not convict McNeill on the rape charges.