HOUSTON — Every time we learn something new in the Maleah Davis case, there are even more questions. The 4-year-old was reported missing Sunday, May 5. Her stepfather, Derion Vence, 26, has been arrested and charged with tampering with evidence related to a human corpse. 

KHOU’s legal analyst, Gerald Treece, weighed in on some of the legal questions in the case.

1. Why was Derion Vence’s bond reduced from $1 million to $45,000?

Gerald Treece says bond amounts should be determined based on how likely someone is to show up for court. They should not be punitive or about how serious the crime is. 

Treece says the $1 million bond amount was unusually high, and if he was the defense attorney, he would have asked for it to be lowered as well.

“I’m neither surprised nor shocked the bond would be lowered, because the question is the likelihood this person appear for trial. This person isn’t going anywhere. He has law enforcement all over the country watching him,” said Treece.

“I’m neither surprised nor shocked the bond would be lowered, because the question is the likelihood this person appear for trial. This person isn’t going anywhere. He has law enforcement all over the country watching him,” said Treece.

Attorney Thomas Burton III is representing Vence and said he intended to file a motion to lessen the bond amount, but was surprised when it was already done by a judge in Monday’s hearing.

Burton III said he has yet to receive any evidence from the state against his client, which would include surveillance video from outside the home where Maleah was last seen.

2. Will any family members be charged in Maleah’s disappearance?

Treece says people who are party to a crime are equally responsible in Texas. Although he doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of the investigation, he says charging more people is often a way to build a case against the main suspect.

“The government goes out and finds people, and works out a deal with them - especially in cases like this where they can’t find a body - to build a case based on so-called accomplices testimony. That’s what I think will happen,” he said.

3. Can Vence be charged with murder if Maleah’s body is never found?

Treece says a body is not required in order to file a murder charge. However, not finding a body makes it much harder to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was killed.

“Many people ask that question. They remember some anecdotal rule that you have to have a body for a murder. It’s a hard circumstantial evidence case, but it’s not impossible under our law,” said Treece.

RELATED COVERAGE: