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Maleah Davis case: Remains found in Arkansas identified as those of missing 4-year-old

Maleah's cause and manner of death are pending further tests and investigation, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said Monday.

The remains of a child’s body found Friday in Arkansas were identified Monday as those of Maleah Davis, a missing 4-year-old from Texas.

Maleah Davis
Maleah DavisHouston Police Department

The cause and manner of Maleah's death are pending further tests and investigation, Michele Arnold, public information manager for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, told NBC News.

The Houston Police Department said it was saddened by the development, but heartened that Maleah, whom they described as “a sweet child,” "can now receive the proper burial she deserved."

The department also said it "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."

Sheriff James Singleton of Hempstead County, Arkansas, said Friday that a black trash bag with a foul odor and containing blood was found in Fulton.

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Maleah was reported missing May 4 by her mother's former fiancé, Derion Vence. She is thought to have been murdered, officials said.

Police began searching in Arkansas after Quanell X, a civil rights activist who up until recently was a spokesman for Maleah's mother, said that Vence had confessed to him that he killed the girl and left her body along a road in Hope, which is about 13 miles from Fulton.

Her mother, Brittany Bowens, previously told NBC News that Maleah was being physically abused by Vence, who was arrested May 11 in connection with the girl's disappearance.

Bowens said that she believed Vence harmed the girl.

Derion Vence was arrested by Houston police in the disappearance of Maleah Davis, 4.
Derion Vence was arrested by Houston police in the disappearance of Maleah Davis, 4.

Child Protective Services removed Maleah and her brothers from the home 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.

Vence said he was driving to George Bush Intercontinental Airport to pick up Bowens, who was on a return flight from Massachusetts, when Maleah was kidnapped by three men who released him and his 2-year-old son after abducting all three of them.

Vence reported that the silver Nissan Altima he was traveling in was taken in the abduction but surveillance video showed that the vehicle was used to drop him off later at a hospital, where he first reported Maleah missing, police said.

Vence was charged with tampering with evidence, namely a human corpse, after the smell of decomposing human remains was detected in the trunk of a car he had driven, according to court documents.

Footage from a neighbor's house showed that before Vence left to pick up Maleah's mother from the airport, he was observed carrying a full laundry basket from the apartment that was later found in the trunk of the Nissan along with a gas can. Police also said they found blood in his apartment linked to Maleah.

Vence is being held in Harris County Jail on a $45,000 bond.