HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences has positively identified the remains found in Arkansas on Friday as those of 4-year-old Maleah Davis.
The cause and manner of her death are pending.
The remains were discovered Friday on an Arkansas roadside in a black garbage bag. State, local and federal authorities processed the scene throughout the day. Once all evidence was collected, the remains, confirmed to belong to a human child, were then gathered and transported to Houston for testing.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo released the following statement:
We are all saddened by the confirmation of the identification of the remains brought home to the Houston by members of the Houston Police Department as Maleah Davis. However, we are heartened by the fact this sweet child can now receive the proper burial she deserved and that those who knew and loved her most desired.
The Houston Police Department will continue to work diligently with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and other partners to ensure the person(s) responsible for her death, and the attempted cover-up of her death, are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
We want to thank the entire Houston community and beyond and especially the work of the crew in Arkansas who found her remains during routine maintenance work.
HPD will not rest until justice is served in this case.
Authorities were able to find the remains just hours after Derion Vence, Maleah Davis' mother's ex-fiance, confessed to Quanell X that Maleah is dead. He said it was an accident and that he dumped her body in Arkansas.
The confession came almost a month after Maleah was first reported missing from Houston.
Vence showed up to Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital on the night of May 4 with his one-year-old son seeking treatment for a head injury. He claimed to have been attacked the night before on his way to pick up Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, from George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
He told police that Maleah and his infant son were in the car with him, when he pulled over to check his tire around Greens Road and Highway 59. Vence then claimed that three Hispanic men pulled up in a blue Chevy pickup truck and beat him up until he passed out. He reported that the next day he regained consciousness near First Colony Mall. Maleah and his car were nowhere to be found, but his son was still with him.
The following day, volunteers and Texas EquuSearch began looking for the four-year-old girl. They began their search in the northeast Houston area where Vence alleged the abduction occurred.
Police announced conflicting information from Derion, and the search was shifted to the area near the southwest Houston apartment where Maleah lived.
FIRST ON FOX: Quanell X gives details of Derion Vence confession
A Houston police detective then told FOX 26 that Derion Vence was a person of interest in the disappearance of Maleah.
Two days later, the silver Nissan Altima was located in the parking lot of a Missouri City shopping center. Police said all of the car’s tires appear to be fine.
Prosecutors say dogs picked up the scent of a human cadaver in the car's trunk. They said a laundry basket and a gas can were also found in the trunk.
Vence was arrested and charged with tampering with evidence, namely a human corpse, on May 11.
The search by volunteers continued for days across the Houston area, including Vence's former mail route in Rosharon.
Texas EquuSearch then suspended their search until they could obtain more information that would put them in the right location to find Maleah. Meanwhile, volunteers continued searching through wooded areas.
A reward was announced, and it quickly climbed to $27,500.
Just before noon on Friday, Quanell X held a press conference with Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller. Quanell X said he spoke with Vence in jail. He said Vence told him that Maleah's death was an accident and that he admitted to dumping her body in a ditch in Arkansas.
“One thing [Vence] wanted to make clear to me was that what happened to Maleah was an accident,” Quanell said. "He confessed to me where he dumped her body."
Detectives and Tim Miller made plans to fly to Arkansas that afternoon to search the area where he said he left the body.
Just a few hours later, the garbage bag was discovered on the Arkansas roadway by a mowing crew.
Police have not announced any additional charges in the case. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences is working to determine a cause of death.
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