(HOUSTON) — Houston is mourning the tragic loss of 4-year-old Maleah Davis, whose remains were found in Arkansas one month after she went missing.
“Maleah was a sweet, beautiful, and innocent little girl who deserved a chance to enjoy life,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement Monday. “She belonged to our community, and we share a collective grief.”
The remains were found in Arkansas on Friday and were confirmed to belong to Maleah on Monday, said officials.
“It’s been a whole month but it feels like it all happened today,” Maleah’s biological father, Craig Davis, told ABC Houston station KTRK on Monday. “It’s so painful.”
The mayor encouraged Houston residents to pay it forward in Maleah’s memory.
“As we learn more about her death and disappearance, I ask people to focus their energy on creating lasting changes in Maleah’s honor,” Turner said. “Love your child and hold them close, volunteer at a shelter for women and children, support foster organizations or make a donation to your favorite charity in Maleah’s name.”
Turner said on Sunday Houston City Hall’s lights will turn pink — Maleah’s favorite color.
The search for Maleah began when she was reported missing on May 4.
Maleah’s mother’s ex-fiance, Derion Vence, who was caring for Maleah while her mother was away, had told police the little girl was abducted by three men, including one who knocked him out during a carjacking.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, however, quickly said detectives didn’t believe his story.
Investigators found the family’s car and authorities said cadaver-sniffing dogs detected the scent of human remains inside.
Vence was arrested on May 11 and charged with tampering with evidence, said police.
Community activist Quanell X said Vence confessed to dumping the 4-year-old’s body in Arkansas, KTRK reported on Friday.
A memorial has also sprung up at the Arkansas site, while the suspected cause and manner of her death are pending.
This week, the chief vowed that police and prosecutors will work “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.”
Harris County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Dane Schiller said Monday that “additional charges would be filed as the evidence supports doing so.”
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