Derion Vence, the stepfather of missing 4-year-old Houston girl Maleah Davis, has been arrested in connection to her disappearance. Vence, 26, originally told police that he had been attacked by a group of “Hispanic men,” who held him and his 1-year-old son along with Maleah for nearly 24 hours, before dropping him and the boy off and abducting the girl. Doubts about his story quickly arose as police said he changed details about what happened during the alleged kidnapping.
Maleah remains missing and has not been seen for more than a week. Vence was charged with tampering with evidence, specifically a human corpse, after police said blood linked to Maleah was found in his Houston home. Police also surveillance video showing Vence carrying a basket out of the home. Vence is being held on $999,999 bail as the investigation continues.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, believes Vence was angry after a confrontation he had with Bowens the day before she left on a trip to Massachusetts for her father’s funeral. According to her attorney, Bowens asked Vence about nude photos he allegedly sent to another person and he “snapped.”
An Amber Alert was issued for Maleah Davis on May 5. Vence told investigators he was assaulted on Friday, May 3, in Houston, and then was dropped off Saturday, May 4, in Sugar Land. “Amber Alert Update: Houston police tell me Darion Vence is a person of interest in his stepdaughter Maleah’s disappearance. Sugar Land police tell me he changed his story, first saying he walked to the hospital, then saying someone dropped him off,” KRIV-TV’s Ivory Hecker reported on May 7.
On May 5, Houston Police said Vence was not being considered a suspect at that time, but investigators were working to fill in the “many blanks” from his story about what he said happened. Vence told police that the assault happened Friday night as he drove to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to pick up Maleah’s mother. He said the men then drove around in their truck with him, his son and his stepdaughter, before leaving him and his son on the side of a road. Vence said he then walked to a hospital because no one would stop to help him, and reported Maleah missing. Houston Police began investigating late Saturday night.
Vence said the three men fled with Maleah in a blue Chevrolet crew cab pickup truck, possibly 2010 or similar model according to police. Investigators said Vence described the kidnappers only as Hispanic men.
Brittany Bowens, Maleah’s mother, told HLN’s Nick Valencia that Vence is staying with his brother. Bowens told the reporter, “His story doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t. His story, it don’t sound right…Honestly, I haven’t really talked to him much because I’ve been focused on finding Maleah. I called his family…and he’s devastated. … I’m getting to a place where it’s getting hard for me to cry and I feel guilty about that. It’s getting to a place where I’m starting to feel numb.”
“Maleah is an African-American female with black hair and brown eyes. She is approximately 3-feet tall and weighs 30-40 pounds. She was last seen … wearing a light blue Under Armor jacket, blue jeans, and gray Under Armour tennis shoes with pink and white details,” police said in the Amber Alert. Police initially said Maleah is 5, but later updated that information on May 6 to say that she is 4.
Volunteers from Texas EquuSearch joined the search for Maleah, according to KTRK-TV. “We want to start checking every single dumpster just in case. We believe in miracles. Let’s hope we get one,” EquuSearch’s Tim Miller told the news station. “I’m choked up right now thinking about her. I’ve been on these cases before. If it doesn’t touch your heart, and you don’t get emotional, you’re just not human.”
EquuSearch said on May 7 that the search was being moved from where Vence said he had been kidnapped from and where he was dropped off to near his apartment in southwest Houston.
Police spelled Vence’s name as Darion Vence on social media, but according to public records, his name is actually spelled Derion Vence.
Here’s what you need to know Derion Vence, Maleah Davis’ stepfather:
1. Vence Claimed He Heard a ‘Popping Noise’ While Driving, Pulled Over to Check on It & Was Attacked by Men He Thought Were Stopping to Help Him
Maleah Davis was with her 26-year-old stepfather, Derion Vence, and her 1-year-old stepbrother when Vence says the 4-year-old girl was kidnapped, Houston Police Sergeant Mark Holbrook said Sunday at a press conference. Vence told police he was driving Maleah’s mother’s car, a Nissan Altima, about 5 p.m. on Friday, May 3. They were on their way to the airport to pick up Maleah’s mother, who was flying into Houston from Massachusetts, Holbrook said. Bowens says she was there to attend her father’s funeral.
Vence told police he heard a “popping noise,” like he had a flat tire, and pulled over to check on it, according to Holbrook. He stopped on Greens Road at Highway 59 in Houston. Vence said a blue pickup truck pulled up behind the car and he initially thought the men were going to help him.
“Two Hispanic males get out, one of them makes a comment, saying Maleah looks very nice, looks very sweet,” Holbrook said. “The other male hits Derion in the head. Derion loses consciousness. Derion is able to wake up during a period of time and is in the back of their truck, in the back of that blue truck, and he says at that point he is in there with Maleah and his own son.”
Vence told police that the three Hispanic men were driving him around with his son and stepdaughter in the back of the truck. Vence told police he lost consciousness again and was “in and out of consciousness,” Holbrook said.
2. He Says He Can’t Remember Much of the Next 24 Hours & Woke Up on the Side of a Highway With His 1-Year-Old Son & Had to Wander to a Hospital
Houston Police Sergeant Mark Holbrook told reporters, Derion Vence told investigators he, “really doesn’t know where he is, until 6 p.m. on Saturday, when he sort of comes to, down on Highway 6. He wakes up, he has his 1-year-old son with him, he begins walking around, he tries to summon help, no one is really helping him. He goes to Methodist Hospital in Sugar Land where he seeks treatment for his injuries. He has the son with him. Maleah has been missing ever since.”
According to Holbrook, Vence said he arrived at the hospital about 10-11 p.m. Saturday night. “He said he was walking up Highway 6, no one would help him, no one was stopping, so he just had to walk all the way. Eventually, he went to the hospital to seek some care for his injuries,” Holbrook told reporters.
Holbrook said he wasn’t sure what condition the boy was in, but said he was treated and released from the hospital. Vence was treated for a head injury. Houston Police began investigating just before midnight and issued the Amber Alert Sunday morning.
According to Holbrook, Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, who also goes by Autumn Vence, was picked up from the airport Friday night by another family member. Holbrook said he is not aware of any report made by Bowens about Vence and her children being missing. Bowens told KTRK-TV that she called police Saturday morning to file a report because she was considered after not hearing from Vence.
Holbrook said Maleah’s biological father lives in the Houston area and has been in contact with police and is cooperating. Holbrook did not release Maleah’s father’s name.
3. Vence Has No Criminal Record
Derion Vence has no criminal record. Police said on Sunday that he was “home with his family” after being interviewed with investigators. When asked if he believed the story, a police spokesman said there were many gaps that needed to be filled in.
Vence told police, “does not remember a 24 hour period of his life, maybe somebody saw him, maybe he was walking around in a daze, maybe someone saw him doing something. I’d love to know anything about that,” Houston Police Sergeant Mark Holbrook told reporters.
Vence told police was “in and out of consciousness” between Friday night and Saturday night, according to Holbrook. He said there are a lot of questions detectives are trying to answer about the case, and they are hoping the public can help.
“The purpose of this press conference is to figure out what story is true, what really happened, we just don’t know, and I don’t want to speculate,” Holbrook said. He said they want to “fill in the blanks on this story. I realize it is a lot of blanks in that story, but we’re hoping the public can fill in the blanks.”
Holbrook said they have not found any surveillance video or witnesses that confirm Vence’s story that he was walking around Saturday night with his son.
The car that Vence was driving was found in a Missouri City on Thursday.
4. He & Maleah’s Mother Have a Son Together & Have Been a Couple for Several Years
Derion Vence and Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, are the parents of Vence’s 1-year-old son, who he told police was with him at the time of the alleged abduction. Bowens has an older son from another relationship along with Maleah. According to Facebook posts, Vence and Bowens have been together for several years.
Derion Vence goes by the name Slim Vence on Facebook and works in the music industry. His Linkedin profile shows he has also worked at a Houston hotel as a steward supervisor. Maleah’s mother uses the name Autumn Vence on Facebook and says she is a future ” Nuclear Medicine Technologist.” She studies at Houston Community College District. Holbrook said he did not know if Brittany and Derion are legally married.
Vence is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and has a company called Superhouse Entertainment LLC, according to his now-deleted Facebook page.
Bowens, told KTRK-TV, “My spirit is so broken, I feel so lost. I can’t concentrate, I can’t focus. It’s so overwhelming for me. It doesn’t seem real.”
Bowens told KHOU-TV, “I love her so much. I love her so much. Maleah is a sweet girl, she loves to dance, she’s always happy. I just want to find Maleah. I just want to find my baby. I just want to find her. Help me find her! Please help me find her.”
Brenda Bowens, Maleah’s grandmother, told the news station, “If she’s listening to this, I want you to know that Nana loves you.”
5. Maleah Davis Was Removed From the Home Where She Lives With Vence & Her Mother Last August, but Was Returned to the Family in February
Maleah Davis has undergone multiple surgeries and is in need of medical care, police said. At a press conference on Sunday, police said the cause of her head injury “wasn’t a violent thing,” but child welfare authorities have said they did investigate after receiving a report that Maleah had been abused.
Maleah and her brothers were removed from their home in August 2018 as a result of that investigation, KPRC-TV reports. Texas Child Protective Services received accusations of physical abuse after Maleah’s head injury.
“Maleah and her brothers were removed from the home and placed with a relative at the time,” CPS said in a statement. The children were ordered to be returned to Maleah’s mother and stepfather in February by a judge under monitored conditions. “CPS would maintain temporary custody and visit the home at least monthly to make sure everything is OK.”
Bowens initially told KTRK-TV it was determined that a fall caused Maleah’s injuries, not abuse. But Bowens now says Vence was abusive toward Maleah. According to the Houston Chronicle, Bowens said she saw severe bruising on Maleah’s leg at least once and had suspicions Maleah had been molested by Vence.
Houston Police Sergeant Mark Holbrook said, “Maleah has had multiple brain surgeries, most recently end of March, early April, to fix the flap for her injury, so that the flap will grow at the same rate as her skull. I wouldn’t call her special needs, but she’s needed a lot of care. And she was sick this week too.”
When asked what medical needs Maleah has, Holbrook told reporters, “Having to have brain surgery, having a loose piece of your skull, is serious business, that requires constant care, constant evaluation by parents, puts you at risk for a whole host of things. I’m no doctor, but it’s not good.”
When asked if he thinks Maleah is alive and OK, Holbrook responded, “I hope so, I sure do. I wouldn’t like to think that she’s … that something happened to her, but I just don’t know.”