HOUSTON – Derion Vence pleaded guilty Thursday to tampering with a corpse and injury to a child -- 4-year-old Maleah Davis -- and was sentenced to 40 years in prison, officials say.
Vence, 28, dated Maleah’s mother, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg’s Office said in a news release with an update about the case. Vence, Maleah and her little brother were all reported missing the morning of May 4, 2019. When Vence and Maleah’s brother showed up at a hospital late that night, Maleah was not with them. Her remains were found by the side of a road in Arkansas a month after she disappeared.
Maleah was being watched by Vence because her mother was out of state on a trip. Vence eventually told police he had been attacked by unknown men a day earlier while on his way to the airport to pick up the mother along with Maleah and his son. He said that when he woke up after the attack, Maleah was missing.
Officials said his story did not match up with surveillance video, which showed his departure from the apartment with only his son. Ogg’s office noted that additional video review showed him leaving his apartment with a full garbage bag in a laundry basket.
Quanell X, an activist and leader of the New Black Panther Nation, said Vence confessed to him to hurting Maleah two years ago.
“Well, he got angry at Brittany (Maleah’s mother) and when the baby kept asking him about Brittany, he struck Maleah in the head,” Quanell X said. “He punched Maleah in the head. When she fell, she began to convulse. I believe having a seizure, and she was bleeding from her ears and from her nose, and that is the point where he strangled the beautiful young baby, killed her and he took her and dumped her body.”
The Houston-area activist said he believes Vence should have been given the death penalty and had the case go to trial. Quanell X also said Maleah’s mother should have faced charges as well for being complicit.
“I believe that definitely Brittany should be charged. Brittany was totally complicit in the murder of her own child,” he said.
He alleges Brittany knew that Vence was abusing Maleah prior to her death but did nothing because she didn’t want Vence to go to jail.
Tamisha Mendoza is Maleah’s cousin on her dad’s side of the family. Mendoza called the 40-year sentence a slap on the wrist.
“True justice will not be served until everyone had something to do with her disappearance and murder is brought before a judge and sentenced,” Mendoza said.
Intentional injury to a child, which causes serious injury by act or omission, is a first-degree felony. Vence was sentenced to 40 years in prison for intentional injury to a child and 20 years for tampering with a corpse. He will serve the sentences concurrently.
The Houston Police Department Homicide Division investigated the case. It was prosecuted by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Major Offenders Division.
“Children are the most vulnerable members of our community and young Maleah’s death is tragic,” Ogg is quoted as saying in a news release. “We may never have all the answers in this case and our thoughts are with her family.”