For more than a week, the disappearance of 4-year-old Maleah Davis captured the attention of people across the country eager to see her returned safely home. But new updates to the Maleah Davis' case have painted a grim picture of what may have happened to the young girl. Houston Police arrested Derion Vence, the man who first reported Maleah missing, over the weekend, charging him with tampering with evidence.
Police in Houston, Texas, announced Saturday that they'd arrested Vence "without incident" at the home of a relative after "blood evidence" obtained from his apartment was linked to Maleah. According to a press release, authorities have charged Vence with tampering with evidence and were considering him to be a suspect in Maleah's disappearance. Harris County's assistant district attorney told CBS News there was "substantial likelihood" that he would face additional charges, including murder.
Vence initially told police that he'd been driving with Maleah and his 1-year-old son to pick up Maleah's mother from Bush Intercontinental Airport when he stopped to investigate what he thought might be a flat tire, according to police's Saturday update. CNN reported that Houston police Sgt. Mark Holbrook told reporters last week that Vence said three men had stopped and remarked to him that Maleah "looks very nice, looks very sweet" before attacking him and knocking him unconscious. Vence claimed he, Maleah, and his son were initially all abducted by the men and that he was in and out of consciousness, CNN reported Holbrook said.
According to the cable news outlet, Vence told investigators he eventually fully regained consciousness and found himself and his son on the side of a road with Maleah nowhere in sight. Holbrook reported that Vence had told authorities he'd walked to Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital for treatment.
In the press release put out Saturday, however, police said there was now surveillance video showing Vence being dropped off at the hospital in the silver Nissan Altima that he'd claimed had been stolen during the abduction.
Most recently, Maleah's mother Brittany Bowens was chased out of a Houston courthouse Monday by protesters alleging she was complicit in her daughter's disappearance. According to The Houston Chronicle, protesters "swarmed" Bowens at Vence's initial court appearance with some demanding to know why she hadn't been arrested.
On Friday, in a press conference held on behalf of Bowens, community activist Quanell X had alleged that Maleah's disappearance was a result of an argument, and subsequent breakup, between Bowens and Vence.
"We believe what started this was that the mother discovered him sending pictures of his private parts to another man," Quanell said. "The mother confronted him about it. He got angry." According to Quanell, Bowens then ended the pairs' engagement at which time Vence allegedly "said some very disturbing things via text messages that the mother needs to share with law enforcement."
"There is issues of him physically abusing Maleah that the mom should have revealed to detectives that at the point in time for whatever the reason may be she did not," Quanell claimed.
According to ABC 13, Maleah was temporarily removed from her home by Child Protective Services in August following allegations of physical abuse related to a head injury Maleah had sustained. CPS told ABC 13 that Maleah and her two siblings had been returned home in February.
Quanell also told reporters Saturday that footage from a surveillance video had allegedly captured Vence leaving his apartment with a large container of bleach, a laundry basket, and a black bag on the day Maleah was reported to have gone missing.
According to the Houston-based NBC News affiliate KPRC, surveillance footage has also surfaced showing Maleah entering Vence's apartment on the morning of April 30, the day her mother left town to visit sick relatives. The girl is not seen again on surveillance footage, although Vence and his son are seen leaving the apartment a in footage captured on May 3, the day Vence told police he'd taken the children with him to the airport.
What's more, police confirmed in their Saturday press release that Vence was observed removing what they described as a "full laundry basket" from his apartment in the press release put out Saturday. According to police, that laundry basked was later found with a gas can in the trunk of Vence's Nissan Altima, which was recovered in Missouri City, Texas. Police also reported that K-9 officers had detected the scent of human decomposition in the vehicle's trunk, ABC 13 reported.
It is unclear when Vence is expected to appear in court again.