SUGAR LAND, Texas - More than 100 people gathered at Oyster Creek Park on Wednesday evening for a vigil to honor missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis.
The park is the same location where, days ago, volunteers handed out flyers, hoping to find the little girl.
Through social media, several hundred people found out about the gathering and showed up with pink and white balloons to release. Attendees also wore blue for child abuse awareness.
“We are all young mothers, so it was very important for us to show that the community can come together,” said Siera Sims, who helped organize the event.
Sims said she grew up in Fort Bend County and knows one of Maleah’s parents. She didn’t specify who, but said she wants parents in difficult situations to know they can ask for help.
If you need help, you have somebody here than can come in and help raise your kid, love your kid, whatever resources that you feel you need, you can reach out to us," Sims said. "I think the hardest thing is not knowing -- not knowing if this child is alive or not. I’m also a single mother. I have a 4–year-old, so it just hurts. It hurts really, really deep, because I couldn’t imagine not knowing where my baby was."
Maleah was reported missing May 4, and her stepfather, Derion Vence, said he, Maleah and Maleah’s younger brother were attacked May 3 when he stopped to investigate a damaged tire on the family’s car. He said he was knocked out during the attack and when he regained consciousness, Maleah and the car were gone.
Vence was arrested Saturday and charged with tampering with evidence in connection with the case. He was being held in jail on $45,000 bond.
According to court documents, blood found in the family’s southwest Houston apartment matched DNA found on Maleah’s toothbrush.
The search for Maleah expanded to a Rosharon haunted house property Tuesday when members of EquuSearch said they were asked by investigators to check a tip they had received in connection with the girl's disappearance.
Carol Smith, who lives in Fort Bend County, said she doesn’t know the family, but felt compelled to attend Wednesday night’s vigil.
“Any time something happens in the community, especially to a young child, it touches the heart," Smith said. "It certainly has touched mine. So I just wanted to be out here to show support.”
"I’m here because the situation, as a mom, I felt really hurt for the little girl and the pain she has gone through," said Coreena Cross, another vigil attendee. "So I’m here to support her.”
Tamesha Mendoza, a biological cousin of Davis’ biological father, thanked the crowd on behalf of her family and thanked people who have helped pass out flyers and search for Maleah.
“Everybody that’s been searching and helping search that’s been passing out flyers, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Mendoza said. “I just want everybody to know that we will find Maleah. Justice will prevail."
Christopher Cevilla came to Wednesday's event, as well. His daughter, Jazmine Barnes, was shot to death last year.
“We came out here today to show our love and support, just like people showed love and support for my princess," he said.
Jazmine's death outraged people across the nation.
Cevilla said he found out about this week's vigil through social media. Maleah reminds him of his daughter, he said, adding that the situation gives him flashbacks.
“Like I’ve been saying, we need to come together as a community, as a city and stop the violence -- (we need to) stop the gun violence, the suicide, the abuse, all of that," Cevilla said.
Maleah is sweet, quiet, and she loves day care, said Roshanda Hines, a senior director at Attitude, Respect and Manners, where Maleah attends day care.
"I hate how this is going on," Hines said. "It really hurts. I’m praying that she makes it back home safely."
Wednesday night, Texas EquuSearch announced it would temporarily suspend the search.
“We have been working hand in hand with law enforcement investigators and followed up on (a) multitude of tips and leads," the organization said in a statement. "We have been basically working around the clock in order to find Maleah. We have followed up on dozens and dozens of tips and leads, but none have been found to be helpful in leading us in the right area to find Maleah.”
Officials said once they get new information from credible tips and leads, they’ll resume the search.
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