(HOUSTON) — Hundreds of people formed a sea of pink in downtown Houston on Sunday as they participated in a memorial walk for 4-year-old Maleah Davis, demanding justice with each step taken for the girl killed and dumped by the side of a road allegedly by a man who had been engaged to her mother.
“Although the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and death of Maleah Davis were heartbreaking, the community is united in creating lasting changes in her honor and vowing to safeguard all children in our community,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said as he read a proclamation making June 9 “Maleah Davis Day” in Houston.
Many of the participants dressed in pink to commemorate Maleah’s favorite color and gathered in front of Houston City Hall before setting out on the walk downtown.
The walk started at 7:54 a.m. local time to coincide with the time Maleah was last seen alive on surveillance footage.
Craig Davis, Maleah’s biological father, thanked supporters for turning out for the walk. He called Maleah his love and his heart.
“It’s been a whole month but it feels like it all happened today. It’s so painful,” Craig Davis told the crowd. “I love you all as much as you all love my daughter, even more than you all can imagine.”
Maleah was last seen wearing pink on surveillance videos on April 30 when she left her apartment with her Derion Vence, who at the time was planning to marry her mother, Brittany Bowens.
The girl’s body was found on May 31 wrapped in a black plastic bag near the side of a highway in Hope, Arkansas, some 325 miles from her home in Houston.
Police say Vence, who has denied any wrongdoing, led them to her body.
On Saturday, a group of people wearing pink held a memorial service near the spot Maleah’s body was found in Arkansas.
“Maleah was her name and she deserved better,” Laura Beth Martin, a writer who was dressed in a pink T-shirt, said in remarks to the crowd in Arkansas on Saturday. “She deserved to have a life filled with love, hope, peace, and community. She deserved a future that has been robbed from her.”
The horrific death of the 4-year old girl captured the interest of people from both her hometown and the place she was found, as evidenced by the crowds who came to pay tribute to the child in Arkansas on Saturday and in Houston on Sunday.
The search for Maleah began when she was reported missing on May 4.
Vence, who was caring for the girl while her mother was away, initially told police she was abducted by three men, including one who knocked him out during a carjacking.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who also participated in Sunday’s walk, said detectives were skeptical of Vence’s story from the start.
A week after Maleah was last spotted alive, video from a neighbor’s surveillance camera showed Vence leaving the family’s apartment with his son and a laundry basket.
Investigators found the family’s car on May 9 in the parking lot of strip mall in the Houston suburb of Missouri City, 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.
The investigation into the girl’s death is ongoing and police have said charges against Vence will likely be upgraded.
“We need justice for Maleah,” Theresa Warrak, who participated in Sunday’s walk, told ABC station KTRK in Houston. “If they don’t give Maleah the right justice, you will see a crowd 10 times as big as you saw today. All of us will be on the street protesting.”
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