HEMPSTEAD COUNTY, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – A bridge in southwest Arkansas may soon be renamed in honor of Maleah Davis, a 4-year-old Houston girl whose remains were found near the side of the Interstate 30 in Fulton in late May.
Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton is leading the effort to rename the Red Lake Road Bridge over the interstate at Exit 18.
Singleton says the name change has been in process since he submitted a letter to the Arkansas Transportation Department on June 4 requesting for it to be named the “Maleah Davis Memorial Bridge.” Such requests for name changes are subject to approval by the highway department.
Singleton says the formal letter is the first of three criteria required to submit the renaming request to the Arkansas Highway Commission. A resolution must also be passed by the county’s quorum court, which was done on June 24. They also must have permission from a family member. Singleton says he has received that blessing from Maleah’s biological father, Craig Davis.
The process could take up to two months. Once approved, Singleton says they will begin the process of ordering the sign to state specifications. The highway department will install the signage.
The signs will be paid for by anonymous private donations, according to the sheriff. No taxpayer funds are contributing to the cost, and Singleton says the name change comes at no expense to the county.
When the signs are approved and installed, Singleton plans to hold a dedication inviting the public, Davis’s family, and media. He says several Houston officers have also expressed an interest in attending.
Singleton says they are “just trying to provide a means to honor this young baby,” and remember all missing and exploited children in the U.S.
“We hope everyone remembers she was a part of Hempstead County, no matter how tragic,” said Singleton.
The child’s remains were found in a garbage bag near the highway on May 31, nearly a month after her mother’s ex-fiancee Darion Vence claimed that he, Maleah and his 2-year-old son were abducted 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, and investigators found blood in his home and signs of decay in his car, which was found a week later in the Houston suburb of Missouri City.
The search for Maleah’s remains moved to southwest Arkansas after investigators received information that Vence had claimed that the child’s death was an accident and that he had confessed to dumping her body at the first Hope exit coming from Texarkana.
The Harris County Medical Examiner has since ruled Maleah Davis’ cause of death as “homicidal violence.”
Vence, 26, has remained in the Harris County Jail since his arrest May 11 on a felony charge of tampering with a corpse in connection with the girl’s disappearance. His bond was initially set at $999,000, but was later to $45,000. He could face a murder charge as police continue to investigate. He is due back in court July 10.
The roadside memorial honoring Maleah Davis is still growing along the treeline near where her remains were found. It is filled with stuffed animals, flowers, and butterflies. A sign has been erected depicting the little girl with wings. It says, “Rest in Peace Sweet Angel” and “Always in our hearts.”