Surveillance photo shows last time missing 4-year-old was seen

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

Maleah Davis (left) and Derion Vence (right) are seen walking to the family's southwest Houston apartment just before 8 a.m. April 30, 2019, in this image provided to KPRC2 by a police source.

SAN ANTONIO - New details are emerging in the case of missing Houston 4-year-old Maleah Davis, after her stepfather, Derion Vence, was arrested Saturday in connection with her disappearance.

Vence is facing a charge of tampering with evidence of a human corpse. His bail was reduced from $1 million to $45,000 Monday afternoon, according to KSAT's sister station in Houston, KPRC.

Authorities said they made the arrest after finding found blood evidence linking him to Maleah.

During a bail hearing Saturday night an assistant district attorney read aloud the charging document for Vence, which included details about the evidence police have obtained in the case.

Police noted they found blood in the hallway leading to the bathroom of the apartment Vence and Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, shared. Authorities said they found additional evidence in a Nissan Altima that Vence told authorities had been stolen when Maleah disappeared.

Vence was the last to see the child before he reported her as missing.

An Amber Alert was issued for Maleah on May 5 after Vence told authorities three men abducted him, Maleah and his 2-year-old son. Vence, authorities said, claimed that the three men made remarks about Maleah's appearance before knocking him unconscious and taking them in a blue Chevrolet truck.

Vence told police he regained consciousness on a road in Sugar Land the next day and walked to a hospital for help, according to police. Houston authorities said Vence's story changed multiple times, and on Tuesday, they named him as a suspect in Maleah's disappearance.

Vence told authorities that his silver Nissan Altima was taken in the abduction, but surveillance video shows that someone dropped Vence off at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital on May 5, a news release from the Houston Police Department states. 

Authorities found the vehicle Thursday in Missouri City, Texas.

Authorities on Saturday night revealed during a bail hearing that Vence was seen on a neighbor's surveillance videos carrying a blue laundry basket with a large black trash bag out of his apartment on May 3 and never returning. Officials said that Vence was also seen carrying cleaning supplies, including bleach, out of the apartment that same day.

A police source tells KPRC this May 3, 2019, image shows Derion Vence leaving the family's southwest Houston apartment without Maleah Davis.

According to police, the blue laundry basket was found in the trunk of the silver Nissan along with gas cans. Court records state that cadaver dogs alerted officers to the "scent of decomposition" in the trunk of the Nissan. After that, authorities secured a warrant for Vence's arrest.

The neighbor's surveillance cameras also captured the last time Maleah was seen, police sources told KPRC. On Monday, the Houston TV station obtained a surveillance photo of the last known sighting of Maleah from the morning of April 30.

Court documents state Maleah is never seen leaving the apartment after that.

Vence was apprehended in a Sugar Land neighborhood by the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force, Houston police said.

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His arrest comes after Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, with Houston activist Quanell X speaking for her, told KPRC that the couple had gotten into an argument before Maleah's disappearance.

Quanell X told KPRC that Bowens had called off her engagement to Vence and that this may have caused Vence "to snap in anger against young Maleah."

Authorities did not confirm any of the allegations Bowens made.

KPRC also uncovered court documents that show that the 4-year-old girl was removed from her home by Child Protective Services last year after the agency received a report of physical abuse in August following a head injury Maleah suffered. The girl and her brother were both removed from the home until February, when a judge ordered the children to be returned under certain conditions, KPRC reported. 

“CPS would maintain temporary custody and visit the home at least monthly to make sure everything is OK,” officials told KPRC regarding the conditions set forth by the judge.

Court documents obtained by KPRC also stated that a physician was unable to determine whether Maleah's injuries were caused by abuse.

According to court documents obtained by KPRC, officials said Maleah and her older brother were physically abused and neglected by Bowens and their biological father, Craig Davis.

Maleah has yet to be located.

Anyone with any information in this case or regarding Maleah's whereabouts is asked to call the Houston Police Department Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477

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