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.
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.