Criminal Justice

Derion Vence Pleads Guilty, Gets 40 Years In The Death Of Houston 4-Year-Old Maleah Davis

Vence, 28, pleaded guilty to tampering with a corpse and injuring a child, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. He faced a potential life sentence had the case gone to a jury.

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A Houston man charged in the death of 4-year-old Maleah Davis was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday.

Derion Vence, 28, pleaded guilty to tampering with a corpse and injuring a child, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. He faced a potential life sentence had the case gone to a jury.

The sentencing comes two years after Maleah's remains were found in Arkansas.

“Children are the most vulnerable members of our community and young Maleah's death is tragic,” read a statement from DA Kim Ogg. “We may never have all the answers in this case and our thoughts are with her family.”

In May 2019, Vence, Maleah and her 2-year-old brother were all reported missing. Later that evening, Vence and Maleah's brother showed up at a hospital, but Maleah wasn't with them.

Vence, who had been engaged to Maleah’s mother, claimed at the time that the three were abducted by a group of men in a truck, and that he and the boy were freed while the kidnappers kept Maleah and stole his car.

Police discovered evidence of blood in the family’s apartment. Investigators also found Vence’s car, where a police K9 detected the smell of human remains.

The search for Maleah went on for weeks, until police say Vence confessed to community activist Quanell X during a jail visit. Vence allegedly told the activist that he had dumped Maleah’s remains close to a highway near Hope, Arkansas, about 30 miles over of the state border.

An autopsy concluded that Maleah died from “homicidal violence.”

Vence’s lawyer Dorian Cotlar, who said his client had lived in 23-hour-a-day lockdown for about two years, told Houston public Media that Vence’s guilty plea was a sign that he was ready to accept responsibility.

"Mr. Vence was ready to put this behind him, he was ready to take responsibility, and most importantly, he did not want to put Maleah Davis' family through a trial and all of the additional trauma that goes along with that,” Cotlar said.

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