HOUSTON – Maleah Davis' remains were found in Arkansas last week.
Authorities said the remains were found in a trash bag on the side of a freeway in Fulton, Arkansas.
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said the 4-year-old girl’s cause and manner of death are pending further tests and investigation.
Maleah was reported missing May 4 by her stepfather, Derion Vence. He was arrested seven days later on a charge of tampering with evidence.
Vence has been held in jail since his arrest.
KPRC2 legal analyst Brian Wice offered some insight into the case and what to expect going forward.
What's next for Vence?
Wice: “We are going to see the Harris County District Attorney’s Office upgrade charges in this case against Mr. Vence from tampering with evidence to capital murder, in that he knowingly and intentionally caused the death of a child less than 10.”
What is the punishment?
Wice: “That carries with it only two possible punishments: life without parole or the ultimate punishment in Texas: the death penalty.”
Will Quanell X's information be used?
Wice: “Every criminal case, from the simplest no-test DWI to a complicated capital murder, has at least one stumbling block. In this case, the defense is going to move to exclude from evidence the statement that Mr. Vence allegedly made to Quanell X, leading investigators to the body.”
Why would the evidence be used or excluded?
Wice: “If a judge determines, in a hearing outside the jury’s presence, that statement for any reason at all was not voluntary. Then, no jury will ever hear it. On the other hand, if the judge concludes that it is, the judge will have to make its own determination of whether that statement was voluntary.”
Where will the trial take place?
Wice: “Because new charges are being filed in this case, it will be assigned to a different court and different council will be assigned, because it’s capital murder. Only the best of the best in the ranks of the Harris County criminal defense bar are permitted to try capital murder cases.”
Why is this case so important?
Wice: “That’s because the judge who appoints two or perhaps even three lawyers in this case wants to make sure that there is no place for rookies in Game 7 of the World Series because that’s what this case is, not just to the defendant but, more importantly, to the victim, the victim’s family and the citizens of Harris County."
A timeline of the case is below: