WJTV News Channel 12 - Mario McNeill says he speaks to a deity named 'Sophia'

Accused rapist claims special powers, communicates with deity named 'Sophia'

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

A Cumberland Court superior court judge ruled Friday that a man accused of raping and killing a 5-year-old girl in 2009 is competent to stand trial.

Judge James Ammons Jr. ruled that Mario McNeill is competent to stand trial, even after McNeill told psychologists he had special powers that allowed him to have extra sensory perceptions, such as feeling electromagnetic fields.

McNeill is accused of raping and killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis in November 2009. McNeill is also charged with child abuse, human trafficking and sexual servitude.

Prosecutors say he took Davis to a motel in Sanford where they believe he raped and killed the girl before dumping her body along Highway 87.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

On April 19, Ammons postponed the start of opening statements so that McNeill could undergo a medical evaluation at two state-operated psychiatric facilities. McNeill's defense requested the mental evaluations when lawyers became concerned about his demeanor during jury selection.

Dr. James Hilkey, who first evaluated McNeill on Oct. 29, 2011, testified Friday that he met with McNeill on Sunday and became concerned about his ability to stand trial. Hilkey also said that he met with McNeill at least five times before the trial, and he never had concerns about McNeill's capacity to stand trial until Sunday's emergency meeting.

Hilkey determined McNeill has schizotypal personality disorder that affects McNeill's ability to guide his defense attorneys in important decision in the case.

Hilkey said McNeill believes he has special powers that allow him to have extra sensory perceptions, such as feeling electromagnetic fields. He said the powers helped him determine if potential jurors were good or bad.

Psychologist Dr. George Corvin -- who met with McNeill in September, January and again on Sunday -- gave similar testimony, explaining that McNeill told him about "Sophia," a deity-type being that he senses and sees. McNeill said "Sophia" helps him sense things about the world.

Corvin explained that he felt something was "off" about McNeill, but did not realize the problem until their meeting on Sunday.

Both doctors say McNeill does not have the capacity to proceed, and that he told them he tried to hide his "powers" and he doesn't want to go to mental hospital. Both doctors also expressed doubts or concerns about their finding because McNeill never exhibited these issues in prior meetings.

Corvin told prosecutors that McNeill is smart enough to "fake good" or "fake bad."

Two other doctors told the court McNeill has the capacity to proceed with the trial.

McNeill maintains his innocence and declined a plea deal that would have offered him a life sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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