MALEAH DAVIS: Remains found in Arkansas those of missing 4-year-old girl

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Monday, June 3, 2019
Memorial grows as Maleah's body identified
ABC13's Steve Campion reports from the family apartment of Maleah Davis after her remains were identified.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The remains of a child found last week in Arkansas are those of missing Houston 4-year-old Maleah Davis, the medical examiner confirms.

Her cause of death is still pending.

On Friday, law enforcement officials in Fulton, Arkansas, said a road crew found a black bag with a foul odor and inside were bones and blood.

Remains found in Arkansas are those of Maleah Davis, however her cause of death is still pending.

Community activist Quanell X, who advocated for Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, told ABC13 Eyewitness News of the discovery. Hours earlier, Quanell told reporters that the suspect in the disappearance, Derion Vence, confessed that the girl died by accident and her body was dumped in Arkansas.

Late Friday, the remains arrived in Houston for further investigation.

In an impromptu news conference, community activist Quanell X reveals Derion Vence, the suspect in Maleah Davis' disappearance, told him where the 4-year-old's body was dumped.

Quanell said he met earlier in the day with Vence, who has been behind bars since May 11. Among the key details shared with reporters, Quanell said Maleah is dead as a result of an accident. He did not specify how she died.

"All I can say is he told me it was an accident, and that she is dead and where he dumped her body," Quanell said.

Quanell met with reporters in a southwest Houston parking lot where he also met with Texas EquuSearch and detectives about what Vence told him.

Quanell withheld where he was told the body was dumped, only to say it was somewhere in Arkansas. He added that Vence was specific about the "distance and time" of the body's location.

"He said he pulled over in Arkansas, got out of the car, walked off the side of the road, and dumped her body off the side of the road," Quanell said.

Quanell also revealed that Maleah's body was dumped there "early on," possibly indicating it happened shortly after the girl was first reported missing. The time of her death was not indicated.

Remains found in Arkansas those of 4-year-old Maleah Davis

The Houston Police Department said in a statement Monday that while officers are saddened that the remains were Maleah's, they are "heartened by the fact this sweet child can now receive the proper burial she deserved."

HPD also vowed to continue working on the case to ensure justice is served.

"The Houston Police Department will continue to work diligently with the Harris County District Attorney's Office and other partners to ensure the person(s) responsible for her death, and the attempted cover-up of her death, are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," the statement continued.

Vence is in jail, facing a charge of tampering with evidence, namely a corpse.

The Harris County District Attorney released a new statement Monday on his charge.

The defendant remains charged with tampering with a corpse. (A second degree felony punishable by up to 20 years.) Prosecutors continue their review and are working with Houston Police. Additional charges would be filed as the evidence supports doing so. We remain focused on finding the truth and delivering justice for Maleah.

Vence was once engaged to Bowens.

Maleah was reported missing on May 4 by Vence, who was her primary caretaker while Bowens was out of town for a funeral.

According to investigators, Vence claimed that on May 3 he was attacked while stopping to check a tire while on his way to the Bush Intercontinental Airport to pick up Bowens. Maleah and Vence's 1-year-old son were with him.

MALEAH DAVIS: What we know about missing Houston 4-year-old

He told police he was knocked unconscious by three Hispanic men, later regaining consciousness 24 hours later in the area of First Colony Mall. His son was with him but Maleah was not. He later entered a hospital in Sugar Land, where he told police that Maleah went missing.

From there, an exhaustive search across Harris, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties intensified in the weeks after the reported disappearance.

What we know about 4-year-old Maleah Davis' disappearance

In the middle of the search, investigators began disputing the details of Vence's story. Turning their attention to Vence and the apartment where Maleah lived in, authorities obtained surveillance video showing the girl with Vence in the week before her disappearance.

In addition, they found blood evidence in the apartment. Vence was arrested just a week after he first reported the girl missing.

Since the arrest, Maleah's mother drew anger from community members who believed she neglected the girl by putting her in harm's way with Vence. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo also weighed in, saying there were obvious holes in Vence's story.

In addition, Maleah's head injury and subsequent custody by CPS last year drew intense scrutiny over the mom. The girl, as well as her siblings, were returned to the home when her injuries were determined to be from a fall.

Over the weeks of the search, a reward totaling up to $27,500 has been offered for information leading to finding Maleah. Vence has been uncooperative with investigators, according to Acevedo.