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Derion Vence, the man charged in the death of 4-year-old Maleah Davis has pled guilty to injury to a child and tampering with evidence, ending a two-year saga into the Houston girl’s disappearance and the discovery of her body next to an Arkansas highway in May 2019.

Vence was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he accepted the plea deal Thursday (May 27) instead of going to trial. He faced a life sentence had a trial jury found Vence guilty. His defense attorney, Dorian Cotlar, said the plea deal was agreed to avoid reliving the case in a trial setting.

“Mr. Vence did not want to put Maleah’s family through this, through a trial,” Cotlar said. “He wanted to accept responsibility for his actions.”

In 2019, Vence gave officers an elaborate and inconsistent story stating three men had attacked him near George Bush Intercontinental Airport and abducted Maleah. Searchers diligently looked for any traces of Davis as family hosted candlelight vigils and the community hoped for her safe return.

Days after his initial statement, police determined Vence was a suspect in the girl’s disappearance and he was arrested in May 2019 on suspicion of hiding her body. Forensic evidence determined blood believed to be Maleah’s was discovered in an Alief-area apartment and surveillance footage nearby showed Vence carrying an abnormally sized laundry basket to his car.

Nearly a month after his arrest, Vence confessed to the crime, first through a jailhouse inmate and then to community activist Quanell X. Houston police and other investigators would locate the remains of Davis in Hope, Arkansas – 330 miles from Houston. Vence had dumped the trash bag containing Maleah and a maintenance crew had ran over the bag with a lawnmower, scattering her remains including the little girl’s pajamas.

Vence said her death was an accident. A murder charge against him was never filed by the Harris County District Attorney’s office. According to Cotlar, law enforcement never felt they had sufficient evidence required to prove such a case.

A grand jury indicted Vence in July 2019, two months after Maleah’s remains were found.

Image Credit: Houston Police Department

Derion Vence Pleads Guilty In 2019 Death Of 4-Year-Old Maleah Davis  was originally published on