- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) | Basketball star Shaquille O’Neal paid for the funeral of a 5-year-old North Carolina girl after being moved by national news coverage of the case of Shaniya Davis, who police say was kidnapped and killed.

The Cleveland Cavaliers player was touched by the stories that he saw and got in touch with the family to see what he could do to help, a spokeswoman for Mr. O’Neal said Thursday.

More than 2,000 people attended the girl’s funeral Sunday. Her body was found Nov. 16 beside a rural road.

Her mother, Antionette Davis, who had reported the child missing six days earlier, is charged with human trafficking and child abuse involving prostitution. Mario McNeill is charged with murder, rape and kidnapping in the case.

The two are incarcerated in state prison facilities in Raleigh until their scheduled court dates - Ms. Davis on Dec. 3; Mr. McNeill on Dec. 9.

“I was sitting at home watching it on the news and the story brought a tear to my eye,” Mr. O’Neal told the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. “Being a law enforcement guy that investigates crimes against children, I wanted to be able to help in some way.”

Mr. O’Neal completed reserve officer’s training when he lived in Los Angeles and Miami.

The Plain Dealer reported that this is not the first such gesture from Mr. O’Neal. He covered funeral costs in 2005 for George Mikan, the legendary 1950s center of the Minneapolis Lakers.

Corey Breece, of Rogers and Breece Funeral Home, which handled the service, declined to tell the Fayetteville Observer newspaper how much it cost but added that a child’s funeral “averages around $4,500.”

A man who answered the phone at the funeral home Thursday told the Associated Press that only the owner could comment and that he was away.

Shaniya Davis’ father, Bradley Lockhart, and his family had set up a trust fund in memory of Shaniya to help raise money to pay for the funeral. Mr. Lockhart was not available to talk Thursday, said a man who answered the phone at his home.

Mr. O’Neal is recovering from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for six straight games since getting hurt Nov. 12 against Miami.

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