MALEAH DAVIS: Grand jury indicts Derion Vence in 4-year-old's death

Jeff Ehling Image
Thursday, July 25, 2019
How the Maleah Davis case has unfolded: TIMELINE
How the Maleah Davis case has unfolded: TIMELINE

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The suspect in the disappearance and death of 4-year-old Maleah Davis has been indicted by a grand jury Thursday.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office announced the indictment against Derion Vence on a count of tampering with evidence. This is the same count that prosecutors charged Vence with on May 11.

"Our work continues to seek justice for Maleah," said District Attorney Kim Ogg.

The district attorney's office said it will decide on possible additional charges when prosecutors receive the girl's final autopsy report.

Earlier this month, a judge reset the 29-year-old suspect's court date, which was supposed to be Vence's first since Maleah's body was located.

At that time, 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.

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

ABC13's Jeff Ehling reports on the loud confrontation made by protesters against Maleah Davis' mom outside a court room during a scheduled appearance for the suspect in the 4-year-old's death.

In addition, the state earlier this month 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.

The video above is from a previous story.

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