The biological father of Maleah Davis, whose body was found a month after she went missing, thanked the hundreds of community members who turned out for the "Walk With Maleah" Sunday morning, on what the city of Houston designated Maleah Davis Day.
"I love you all as much as you all love my daughter," Craig Davis told the crowd that amassed outside City Hall, according to KTRK. "Even more than you all can imagine."
Derion Vence, the ex-fiance of Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, is charged with tampering with evidence in connection with the 4-year-old's disappearance and death. He has not entered a plea.
Vence was seen taking Maleah into their Houston home in late April, but days later, he left the apartment with his son and a laundry basket with a trash bag in it, according to authorities.
Vence told police Maleah was kidnapped by three men who knocked him unconscious while stealing his car, but his story later fell apart, authorities said.
Though Texas authorities believed the girl was dead, it took several weeks before her body was found thanks to a tip from community activist Quanell X, who told investigators of a conversation he had with Vence. He said Vence told him Maleah's death was an "accident" and he disposed of her body in Arkansas. Her remains were later found in a wooded area in the southwest area of the state.
However, Vence staunchly denies killing Maleah. "I loved Maleah so much," he told KTRK in a jailhouse interview. "I did for her more than her own parents. I never had a biological daughter. I would never do anything to hurt her. That's not me."
At the memorial walk Sunday, the community turned out in pink, Maleah's favorite color. The walk, which began at 7:54 a.m., the last time she was seen alive, went from City Hall through downtown Houston.
The investigation is ongoing and it's likely Vence will face more charges, according to police, who said they are awaiting the results of the cause and manner of Maleah's death before moving forward.
"We need justice for Maleah," Theresa Warrak told KTRK at Sunday's walk. "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."