ARKANSAS — The search for a missing girl 4-year-old girl out of Houston has reportedly shifted east to Arkansas, and investigators may have found something of interest.
Maleah Davis has been missing since May 4. Her stepfather, Derion Vence, told someone on Friday that the four-year-old died in an accident, according to Houston CBS affiliate KHOU 11. He then put her body in a vehicle and dumped her in Arkansas.
Later, KHOU 11 reported searchers found “a black bag with a foul odor” off I-30 in Fulton in Hempstead County, in the southwest part of the state.
They are still working with law enforcement to know what was in the bag. The Houston Police Department said a child’s remains were found in the bag, but they would not confirm the child’s identity.
Police said they believed it is Maleah, but could not confirm it until an autopsy is performed.
Vence lived in Houston with the missing 4-year-old’s mother and was caring for the girl while her mother was out of town. He is now a suspect in herdisappearance after telling authorities that Maleah disappeared after he, the young girl and his son were abducted by three men who knocked him unconscious.
Earlier that evening, Maleah’s father, Craig Davis, and his sister went to the apartment where Maleah lived with Vence and her mother to check on the child, the station reported Davis saying at a Wednesday court hearing. The hearing was related to the custody of Maleah’s brother, according to local media reports.
Vence would not let them in, saying that Maleah had the flu, Davis testified. Davis said Vence denied their request to look in on the girl as she slept in her bed, according to KTRK.
Vence told police he left about an hour later with his son and Maleah to pick up Maleah’s mom from the airport, KTRK reported.
He initially told authorities that on their way, three Hispanic men knocked him unconscious and abducted the girl.
But surveillance footage shows that Maleah never left the apartment, court documents say, and blood found in the apartment is “consistent” with DNA taken from Maleah’s toothbrush.
Vence also was seen on surveillance being dropped off by car at a hospital, the court documents say, contradicting his story that he walked there after the attack.
Vence was arrested earlier this month and booked into Harris County jail on suspicion of tampering with a human corpse, according to police. Court documents indicate a “substantial likelihood” Vence will be charged with murder. He was scheduled to appear in court May 13 but the hearing was moved to July 10, online records say.
Efforts to reach Vence’s attorney have been unsuccessful.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters last week that he is not hopeful Maleah will be found alive.
“We really believe we have a little girl that has been murdered,” Acevedo said. “We believe she’s out there somewhere and we want to bring her home.”