HOUSTON (AP) — Prosecutors on Monday filed a more serious charge against a Houston man already jailed in connection with the death of his ex-fiancee’s 4-year-old daughter.
Derion Vence was charged with causing serious bodily injury to a child in the death of Maleah Davis, whose remains were found by an Arkansas highway on May 31, nearly a month after she was first reported missing.
The count against Vence carries a potential life sentence. Vence is scheduled to appear in court on the new charge on Wednesday.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in statement that “after a review of all of the evidence, including the autopsy results,” prosecutors determined there was enough evidence to charge Vence with the more serious count.
District attorney’s office spokesman Dane Schiller said the investigation in the case continues and a potential murder charge against Vence is “not off the table.”
Murder and injury to a child both carry a sentence of up to life in prison, Schiller said.
Vence’s attorney, Dorian Cotlar, declined to comment Monday.
Vence has been jailed since May 11 on the less serious charge of tampering with evidence, specifically a human corpse, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Vence, 27, had claimed he, Maleah and his 2-year-old son were abducted on May 4 by a group of men in a truck. He said he and his son were freed the next day but the kidnappers kept Maleah and his silver Nissan Altima.
Police said Vence’s story kept changing and didn’t add up. Authorities arrested Vence on the tampering with evidence charge.
Authorities and volunteer groups searched for Maleah for weeks around the Houston area until a community activist told police that Vence had confessed to him during a jail visit that he had dumped the girl’s remains close to a highway near Hope, Arkansas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of the Texas-Arkansas border.
An autopsy concluded that Maleah died from “homicidal violence” but authorities have not released information about the circumstances surrounding her death.
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