Conviction in Maleah Davis Death

By Dale Gathright, Jr., 05/28/21 10:36 AM

HOUSTON, TEXAS – Derion Vence pleaded guilty Thursday to tampering with a corpse and injury to a child — 4-year-old Maleah Davis — and was sentenced to 40 years in prison, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced. Davis’ remains were found at Exit 18 on Interstate 30 at Fulton on May 31st, 2019.

Vence, 28, dated Maleah’s mother. Vence, Maleah and her little brother were all reported missing the morning of May 4, 2019. When Vence and Maleah’s brother showed up at a hospital late that night, Maleah was not with them. Her remains were found by the side of a road in Arkansas a month after she disappeared.

“Children are the most vulnerable members of our community and young Maleah’s death is tragic,” Ogg said. “We may never have all the answers in this case and our thoughts are with her family.”

Maleah was being watched by Vence because her mother was out of state on a trip. Vence eventually told police he had been attacked by unknown men a day earlier while on his way to the airport to pick up the mother along with Maleah and his son. He said that when he woke up after the attack, Maleah was missing.

His story did not match up with surveillance video which showed his departure from the apartment with only his son. Additional video review showed him leaving his apartment with a full garbage bag in a laundry basket.

Intentional injury to a child which causes serious injury by act or omission is a first degree felony. He was sentenced to 40 years for intentional injury to a child and 20 years for tampering with a corpse. Vence will serve the sentences concurrently.

The Houston Police Department Homicide Division investigated the case. It was prosecuted by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Major Offenders Division.

Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton said at the time his agency, the Arkansas State Police, and others began searching after learning the stepfather of the youngster told Houston police the girl died accidentally and he dumped the body near I-30 in Hempstead County. Searchers originally looked at an exit nearer Hope but Sheriff Singleton said a mowing crew told his department about a black trash bag near Exit 18 they had encountered which was emitting a foul odor. The “stepfather,” Derion Vence, had been in jail in Houston since May 11th, 2019 when he was charged with tampering with evidence in connection with Maleah Davis’s disappearance. Vence allegedly told a “community activist” that Davis died accidentally and where to find the body.

Maleah’s death led to an outpouring of emotion in Hempstead County:

Excerpts from a Hope/Prescott article by Natalie Hood: “Family, friends, and a heartbroken community met at the Red River Truck Stop in Hempstead County on Saturday, June 8, 2019, to honor the memory of four year Maleah Davis. Before the ceremony began, a church group from Houston who were on their way to Little Rock for a church rally stopped by to see the memorial site and show their love to Maleah. Those in attendance wore pink, which was stated to be Davis’ favorite color. Everyone parked at the truck stop then together walked over the I-30 bridge to the memorial site. Brother Revel Kidd officiated the ceremony, Jesse Henry opened with the invocation, followed by the Mayor of Fulton, Henry Hale who read a poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou. Laura Beth Martin, Arnetta Bradford, Bitsy Carter, and Denisha Coulter also played part in the ceremony by speaking and singing. Members of the Hope Corvette Club, Bikers Against Child Abuse of Texarkana, and the Street Heat Diamonds biker groups were also present at the event. During the uncovering of a memorial sign, bubbles and balloons were released.