Houston-based activist Quanell X, leader of the New Black Panther Nation, claims in a report by KHOU that while visiting Derion Vence in jail Friday morning, Vence allegedly confessed to dumping five-year-old Maleah Davis’ body on the side of a road about 20 miles outside of Hope, Ark. Police later found human remains in the area Vence described.
“We had a long conversation,” X told KHOU. “We spoke about details surrounding Maleah’s disappearance. We spoke about his relationship with [Maleah’s mother Brittany Bowens].”
X claims Vence “snapped” following Bowens’ decision to end their relationship.
On Friday afternoon, Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton announced that a black garbage bag with a “foul odor” was found along Interstate 30 in Arkansas but no additional comment was made as the investigation was ongoing. Authorities in Arkansas later confirmed that the bag contained the body of a child but did not identify the remains as being Maleah.
“Do we believe that it’s possibly her? Yes. But can we confirm it right now? No,” Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Troy Finner told CNN.
“If it’s not Maleah, it’s somebody’s child,” he said.
When Maleah was reported as missing on May 5, Amber Alerts and police searches gripped the community. A weary Vence appeared bruised and beaten, with a large knot on his forehead, and Vence initially told investigators that Maleah was abducted.
Yet, the more he told his tale, the more his story became increasingly shady. According to the Associated Press, he’d initially told reporters he was traveling with his infant son and Maleah when the car broke down and they were abducted by three Hispanic men. Vence claimed he was hit on the head by one of these abductors, lost consciousness, and when he woke up he was laying on the side of the road with his son by his side, yet Maleah was nowhere to be found.
There were several issues with the details of his story.
Vence claimed his car was stolen during the abduction, yet video evidence shows that same car dropping off Vence at the hospital where he first reported Maleah missing. Security surveillance footage shows that the last time Maleah was seen alive was entering her family’s apartment complex with him. She is never shown exiting the house, but Vence is caught on camera leaving with a laundry basket containing a full black garbage bag and possibly, cleaning supplies. When forensic evidence showed blood in Vence’s home, and signs of human decomposition in the trunk of Vence’s found car, on May 11 he was arrested for “tampering with evidence, namely a corpse,” and his bail was set at just under $1 million.
Quanell X initially served as a public spokesperson for Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, but claims he quit after discovering that Bowens had information about Maleah’s disappearance and alleged previous abuse from Vence.
“Maleah didn’t have to die,” X told KHOU 11 News. “That child was being physically abused and physically tortured in that house, and they were covering it up. It’s a damn shame.”
Since Vence’s alleged confession, his attorney has requested through a judge that X be banned from visiting. KPRC legal analyst Brian Wice says “if a judge concludes it was not a voluntary confession, it won’t be admitted into court and the jury won’t be able to use it. If the judge concludes it was a voluntary confession, [then] it will be allowed into evidence.”
Correction: 6/4/19: 5:37 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to reflect that Vence only confessed to dumping Davis’s body, and to correct the date of arrest and other details of what was captured in the surveillance footage. This story has also removed unattributed text and added fuller sourcing.