Derion Vence, man accused of killing Maleah Davis, pleads guilty to charges, sentenced to 40 years
Derion Vence and Maleah Davis

The primary suspect in the death of Houston’s Maleah Davis, has pleaded guilty to the charges against him and has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Derion Vence, 28, who initially denied any involvement in Maleah’s disappearance or death, pleaded guilty to tampering with a corpse and injury to a child.

Maleah’s disappearance quickly became national news, captivating the entire nation two years ago as the desperate search for the 4-year-old girl grew and questions remained unanswered about what happened to her.

Maleah, her brother and Vence, who was dating Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowen, at the time, were all reported missing on May 4, 2019. Later that evening, Vence and Maleah’s brother showed up at a hospital. However, Maleah was not with them.

Maleah’s remains were found on the side of the road in rural Hope, Arkansas, nerly a month later, on May 31, 2019.

“Children are the most vulnerable members of our community and young Maleah’s death is tragic,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. “We may never have all the answers in this case and our thoughts are with her family.”

Maleah was left in the care of Vence while her mother, Bowen, was out of state on a trip.

Vence’s initial story to police was that he had been attacked by unknown men a day earlier while on his way to the airport to pick up Bowen with Maleah and her brother with him. However, he claimed he was knocked out by the attackers, and woke up to discover that Maleah was missing.

However, Vence’s story was inconsistent with what surveillance video revealed, which showed him leaving an apartment with only his son. Even more damaging to Vence’s version of events, additional video showed Vence leaving his apartment with a full garbage bag in a laundry basket.

A month after Maleah’s disappearance and Vence was arrested, he spoke to local news affiliate ABC13, denying that he killed her.

“I ain’t no killer, bro,” Vence told ABC13’s Chauncy Glover in June 2019. “Chauncy, I loved Maleah so much. I did for her more than her own parents. I never had a biological daughter. I would never do anything to hurt her. That’s not me. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I’m not that type of dude and I was good with the kids.”

Houston community activist Quanell X provided the revelation about Maleah’s remains, saying that Vence told him the girl is dead and that her body was dumped off a road in Arkansas.

Vence admitted to him putting Maleah’s body in a trash bag, putting the bag in the trunk and then driving to Hope, where he dumped the bag in a wooded area, according to the activist.

Vence was sentenced to 40 years for intentional injury to a child and 20 years for tampering with a corpse. He will serve the sentences concurrently, the district attorney’s office said.