Twenty-six-year-old Derion Vence was arrested Saturday near Houston in connection with the disappearance of 4-year-old Maleah Davis, who has been missing since May 3. According to police, Vence was charged with tampering with evidence, specifically a human corpse.
“At this point in time those are the charges we have filed and I can’t say any more than that,” Houston Police spokesman Kese Smith told the Associated Press.
Vence had told investigators that Maleah, daughter of his ex-fiancée Brittany Bowens, was in his care temporarily while Bowens took a trip out of town. This was confirmed by Bowens. According to Vence’s story, he, his 2-year-old son and Maleah were on their way to the airport to pick up Bowens when they were abducted by three men in a pickup truck, CNN reports. Vence claimed he was struck over the head and lost consciousness and recollection of what happened for the next 24 hours. Allegedly, he woke up on the side of a road with his son, yet Maleah was gone.
Sugar Land, Texas, police, who initially interviewed Vence, said his story quickly began falling apart. For instance, Vence reported that his silver Nissan Altima was stolen during the kidnapping, but surveillance video shows the same car was later used to drop Vence off at the hospital where he first reported the abduction, police said in a news release.
A thorough investigation of Vence’s home revealed the girl’s blood in his apartment, according to CNN. In addition, Vence was seen on surveillance video leaving the apartment carrying a large laundry basket, which contained a full garbage bag. He was also seen removing bleach and other cleaning supplies, according to police. In the retrieved car that Vence claimed was stolen, the trunk revealed a laundry basket and a gas can. Police are urging anyone who sold him the gas can to contact authorities.
Maleah’s mother is said to be inconsolable, while Maleah’s father said to CNN he is heartbroken over his daughter.
“I haven’t spoken to the public because I can’t talk about my daughter. I can’t control my emotions,” Craig Davis told CNN affiliate KTRK-TV last week. “I can’t predict myself. I break down and I cry.”
Jail records show Vence’s bail has been set at $999,999. Tampering with a human corpse is a second-degree felony in Texas. If convicted, he faces between two and 20 years in prison.
He’s scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Correction: Sept. 17, 2019, 1:33 p.m. ET: This story has been edited to include information based on additional sourcing.