A Houston man who claimed his 4-year-old stepdaughter was kidnapped in an alleged carjacking earlier this month has been arrested and charged in her disappearance.
A $1 million bond was set for Derion Vence, 26, on Saturday following his arrest on a tampering with evidence, in this case a “human corpse,” charge in the disappearance of Maleah Davis, according to court papers obtained by ABC13. The charge comes after investigators found what’s believed to be traces of Davis’ blood inside the family’s apartment.
Authorities haven’t confirmed if the little girl is deceased, but investigators do not believe she’s still alive.
Over the weekend, authorities searched the home Vence shared with Maleah and her mother, Brittany Bowens, and found traces of blood in the hallway leading to the bathroom.
Blood was also found on various surfaces of the bathroom and a chemical spray revealed more traces of blood, which weren’t visible with the naked eye, that someone had tried to clean up, according to the documents.
In a sworn statement by police, authorities said Vence told investigators that “there should be no blood in the home and that no one was recently bleeding.” Yet, DNA samples from little Maleah’s toothbrush matched the blood to a “maternal offspring of Brittany Bowens,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
Vence was the last person to see Davis, 4, before she vanished May 3, when he claims three Latino men knocked him unconscious before fleeing with his silver Nissan Altima and the little girl. Vence told officers he woke up on the side of the road with his 1-year-old child, who was with him during the alleged incident. However, Maleah was nowhere to be found.
Earlier that day, police said Vence was spotted on surveillance video leaving the apartment with his toddler son and a laundry basket with a large trash bag inside. Houston police said Saturday that the laundry basket was found, along with a gas can, in the trunk of the car Vence claimed was stolen. Police also released another video depicting Maleah arriving at the apartment with Vence on the morning of April 30, the last time she is known to have been seen.
Officers said two K-9s also sniffed out “the scent of decomposition” coming from the vehicle, adding to the grim prospect that Maleah may have been murdered.
Vence told police he, Maleah and his 1-year-old son were headed to Bush Intercontinental Airport to pick up Maleah’s mom when he pulled over to check his tire after hearing a “popping” sound. As he was checking out his car, Vence claims three Hispanic men pulled up in a blue pickup truck and ambushed him.
After waking from the assault and realizing Davis was gone, Vence walked to Houston Methodist Hospital in Sugar Land with his son to be treated for his injuries. It was there that he first reported his stepdaughter and his car missing.
However, surveillance footage obtained by ABC13 shows Vence being dropped off at the hospital in the very car he claimed had been stolen.
The Houston man was arrested Saturday at a relative’s home after ignoring multiple calls from police, the Houston Chronicle reported. He was officially named a person of interest in Davis’ disappearance after investigators said he changed elements of his story, including how he made it to the hospital that night, “several times.”
Davis’ grieving mother, Brittany Bowens, said she suspects her ex-fiancé may have harmed her daughter. Community activist Quanell X made the accusations during a press conference Friday, where he spoke on Bowen’s behalf.
“There’s a lot that hasn’t come out, that’s for sure,” he told reporters. “It’s just a sad story.”
At that same news conference, Quanell X revealed that Bowens and Vence had had a huge fight before she left for a funeral that Friday, a fight that allegedly started after Bowen’s confronted her ex-lover about lewd pictures he’d sent to other men.
“She caught him sending naked penis pictures,” the activist explained, adding that Vence grew “angry and upset” when Bowens questioned his sexuality. “She told him she was giving back his ring … and I believe that caused him to snap in anger.”
Bowens called for another relative to pick her up from the airport after Vence and the children never showed. Questions remain about why Bowens left her daughter in Vence’s care if they were on bad terms.
So far, Davis’ mother isn’t a suspect in the case.