MALEAH DAVIS: Court delay could be leading to upgraded charge, analyst says

Jeff Ehling Image
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
MALEAH DAVIS: Court delay could signify upgraded charges, analyst says
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ABC13's Stefania Okolie spoke to ABC13's legal analyst following a court continuance in the case of Maleah Davis, the 4-year-old girl who was found dead.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- What would have been Derion Vence's first court appearance since 4-year-old Maleah Davis' remains were found has been reset.

A judge reset the 29-year-old suspect's court date Wednesday. Vence faces a charge of tampering with evidence, namely a corpse.

Before the slated appearance, the girl's mother Brittany Bowens and her family were escorted to the court under the protection of Harris County deputy constables.

As they waited to get inside, the group Parents Against Predators for Life started asking Bowens questions about the case, to which she did not answer. She remained silent the entire time.

After court was reset, Vence's attorney did not answer our questions regarding an update on the suspect's mental health evaluation. The attorney added that he was not going to try the case in the media.

Meanwhile, as Bowens left the court room, she would not answer any questions, and those demanding justice for Maleah started shouting at the family.

VIDEO: Mom of Maleah Davis silent against protesters outside suspect's court appearance

"Unfortunately, nothing happened today, but I am sure in due time, it will," said a family representative as Bowens left.

This is not the first time Parents Against Predators for Life was present at a hearing. Members say they will be at court each time, demanding justice for the little girl.

The state filed a motion for a protective order on medical records Vence's defense requested. Court documents show the defense is seeking medical records from two hospitals, including Sugar Land Methodist, where the suspect made his original claim of being attacked. The defense is also seeking Maleah's medical records from Texas Children's and West Houston hospitals.

Last month, medical examiners ruled Maleah's death was the result of "homicide violence," although, the exact method was not disclosed.

After the ruling was released, the Harris County District Attorney's Office said its investigation is continuing and that "all evidence will ultimately be presented to a grand jury to determine what charges are appropriate."

As both sides build their cases, ABC13 legal analyst Steve Shellist observed the court continuances could stem from the pursuit of upgraded charges.

"(Prosecutors) would not be satisfied with charging him and convicting him of a tampering with evidence charge," Shellist said. "Right now, the state is trying to figure out, 'Can we file a capital murder charge? Do we have enough evidence, 'cause that's what they want.'"

Shellist also said he expects Vence's attorneys to possibly challenge the medical examiner's ruling of Maleah's death, especially with homicidal violence being ruled.

"Let's say they're looking at her skull and there's a fracture in her skull," Shellist pointed out, alluding to Maleah's remains being run over by a landscaper in Arkansas. "We have no idea whether that's from earlier point blunt force trauma or from being run over by a mower."

Vence's next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Investigators believe Vence was the last person to see the girl alive. Crews spent nearly the entire month of May to find the girl after Vence reported her missing.

But a week after making that report, Vence was arrested, and later while behind bars, indicated to community activist Quanell X that the girl's body was dumped in Arkansas.

Maleah's remains were found in a trash bag along a highway on May 31.

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