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Remains found in Arkansas identified as Maleah Davis

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FILE – This undated booking file photo provided by the Houston Police Department shows Derion Vence. Searchers are headed to Arkansas to look for a missing 4-year-old Houston girl after Quanell X, a community activist, said Vence, who was arrested in the case, confessed to him in jail that he disposed of her body there. Tim Miller, the director of Texas EquuSearch, says his group will fly to Arkansas Friday, May 31, 2019, to search for the body of Maleah Davis. (Houston Police Department via AP, File)

HOUSTON (AP) — The remains of a child found in Arkansas last week are those of a missing 4-year-old Texas girl, Maleah Davis, a medical examiner said Monday.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said it had positively identified the remains found in a garbage bag near a freeway outside the town of Hope, Arkansas, which is located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of the Texas-Arkansas border.

A Houston community activist, Quanell X, has said that Derion Vence, the man who had been arrested in connection with Maleah’s disappearance, told him he had disposed of her body there.

The institute of forensic sciences says the cause and manner of her death are not yet determined.

Vence, the ex-fiance of Maleah’s mother, remains jailed on a charge of tampering with evidence, specifically a human corpse. He’s being held on a $45,000 bond.

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.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement Monday that his agency would work with prosecutors 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.”

In a statement, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said on Monday that “additional charges would be filed as the evidence supports doing so.”

“We remain focused on finding the truth and delivering justice for Maleah,” the district attorney’s office said.

Authorities were directed to Arkansas after Quanell X visited Vence in jail in Houston on Friday and the activist said that Vence told him he dumped her body near Hope.

Quanell X declined to comment on what Vence told him regarding how Maleah died but that Vence insisted what happened to her was “an accident.”

Dorian Cotlar, Vence’s attorney, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Monday.

Brittany Bowens, Maleah’s mother, had previously accused Vence of abusing the girl.

Child Protective Services removed Maleah and her brothers from the apartment Vence and Bowens shared in August after the girl suffered a head wound, but the children were returned in February, according to an agency spokeswoman.

After a canceled court appearance by Vence on May 13, Bowens was heckled outside the courtroom by people who questioned if she had done enough to protect her daughter before her disappearance.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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