Emotions ran high in a Texas courtroom Wednesday as the family of slain girl Maleah Davis voiced frustration with the fact that the sole suspect in the case still hasn’t been charged with murder.
Prosecutors announced new charges against Derion Vence, 28, on Monday, charging him with causing injury to a child/serious bodily injury. Vence was scheduled to appear in court on the new charge Wednesday but his hearing was reset, local station KTRK reported.
After a review of the evidence, including autopsy results for the 4-year-old, Harris County District Attorney Kim Hogg said that prosecutors determined there was sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with “intentionally and knowingly causing serious bodily injury to a child younger than 15 years of age.”
Court documents show that Vence, the ex-fiancé of Davis’ mother, Brittany Bowens, had struck the young girl with his hand and a blunt object before her death. He did not seek medical treatment for her, prosecutors said.
The new charges come just weeks after a grand jury indicted the Houston man on a previous charge of tampering with evidence, namely a corpse.
Maleah’s relatives, on her biological father’s side, showed up hoping to see Vence in court Wednesday. Tamisha Mendoza, a cousin, said the family is angry that prosecutors still haven’t charged him with murder.
“You left her in that apartment for however many days until you figured out how to move my little cousin and then threw her on the side of the highway like she was trash,” Mendoza said outside the courtroom. “You knew what you were doing. That was murder. Period. Murder.”
The frustrated family member said she believes Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, should face charges in her death as well.
“We need answers, we deserve answers,” Mendoza continued. “Maleah deserves justice and right now, she’s not getting that.”
The 4-year-old’s body was discovered along a busy highway in Arkansas on May 31, nearly a month after Vence reported her missing. At the time, Vence told police that he, his 1-year-old son and Davis were abducted in an alleged carjacking by three Hispanic men. He claimed he was knocked unconscious during the assault and awoke to find his car and the little girl gone.
He later confessed to dumping the child’s body on the side of the road in a jailhouse meeting with local activist Quanell X, which led investigators to Davis’ remains. Quanell told reporters that Vence described Maleah’s death as an “accident,” but didn’t reveal how it happened.
If convicted on the injury to a child charge, Vence could face life in prison. His previous charge of tampering with evidence is a second-degree felony that carries a penalty of two to 20 years in prison.
Authorities said more charges are possible as they continue investigating. A spokesperson for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office told KTRK that a said a murder charge carries the same penalty of life in prison, however, prosecutors would have to prove Vence intentionally killed Davis.
Bowens, who reportedly was out of town when her daughter disappeared, reacted to the new charges against Vence, saying: “It’s not fair to Maleah. At this point I want to know what happened to my daughter.”
“The fact that he went through great extent to cover himself is unbelievable, she added. “It’s not enough. These charges are not enough. But I have faith justice will prevail. Maleah, we love you forever.”
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