A North Carolina man charged with kidnapping a 5-year-old girl told a judge he is not guilty Thursday as investigators scoured the town for any sign of the missing child and said they assume she is in danger.
Cumberland County Judge Tal Baggett asked Clarence Coe, 30, during an afternoon hearing if he understood why he was in court.
"No, but I'm not guilty, sir," Coe said. He did not enter a formal plea and Baggett said the court would appoint an attorney.
Baggett also said Coe was also accused of "terrorizing" the child's mother, although he did not elaborate. Coe has been formally charged only with kidnapping.
Fayetteville Police spokeswoman Theresa Chance said a witness spotted Coe taking Shaniya Davis out of the trailer park where she was reported missing around 7 a.m. Tuesday.
"I think it's safe to say this is not a random occurrence," Chance said.
Barbara Davenport, property manager at Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park, said Coe is dating Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Davis, and has visited the trailer park several times.
Investigators said police dogs did not pick up the child's scent during a search of the neighborhood.
"Our hopes are that she's close by," Chance said.
Coe was being held at the Cumberland County jail. He has several criminal charges on his state record, including an April conviction for misdemeanor breaking and entering, and he was released from prison in mid-August, according to Department of Correction records.
Coe was previously convicted of assault on a female, felony breaking and entering, larceny, robbery and other charges dating back to 2001.
Investigators found a blanket that may have belonged to Shaniya in a garbage can outside a neighbor's home. Lt. Alex Thompson said investigators also found other items Shaniya may have been wearing.
Davis and Shaniya's father, who flew in from out of state, have been speaking with investigators.