Maleah Davis was reported missing by her stepfather, Texas, who says she was kidnapped by three men, sparking an Amber Alert. The 4-year-old girl’s stepfather told Houston Police that Maleah was abducted after he was assaulted by men he thought had stopped to help him when he pulled over with car trouble.
Derion Vence, Maleah’s stepfather, said his 1-year-old son was with him and was not harmed. 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.
Police initially said Vence was not being considered a suspect. But on May 7, he was named as a person of interest in Maleah’s disappearance after investigators said he changed his story.
“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.
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.
Her mother, Brittany 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.”
An Amber Alert was issued by the Houston Police Department on Sunday, May 5. “Anyone with information about the child, suspects, or vehicle is asked to immediately call the Houston Police Department at 713-308-3600,” police say.
“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 have 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.”
Here’s what you need to know about Maleah Davis and the Amber Alert case:
1. Maleah’s Stepfather, Derion Vence, Says One of the Men Told Him She ‘Looked Very Sweet’ Before Another Man Knocked Him Unconscious
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.
Holbrook told reporters, Vence “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 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.
Brittany Bowens told CBS News, “It’s like a nightmare. It just keeps going and going. I have to be strong for her. I have to. I have to believe that she’s okay. I have to because it’s the only thing that’s getting me through this.”
2. Maleah Has Had Multiple Brain Surgeries, Including in March or April, & Has Medical Needs, Police Say
Maleah Davis previously suffered a traumatic brain injury and has undergone medical treatment because of that. Sergeant Holbrook did not answer when asked how Maleah was injured, but said it “wasn’t a violent thing.”
But there were suspicions of abuse, according to Texas Child Protective Services. Maleah and her brothers were removed from their home in August 2018 as a result, KPRC-TV reports. CPS 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 told KTRK-TV it was determined that a fall caused Maleah’s injuries, not abuse.
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.”
3. The Nissan Altima Vence Was Driving Was Spotted on a Surveillance Camera in Sugar Land on Saturday, but Has Not Been Seen Since
The silver Nissan Altima that was being driven by Derion Vence remains missing. According to police, the car is owned by Brittany Bowens and was recently purchased by her. It was seen on a traffic light camera in Sugar Land, Texas, about 2:54 p.m. on Saturday, May 5.
“It is among the missing right now. We don’t know where her vehicle is,” Holbrook said. The Altima has Texas temporary tags 330-92G9, Houston Police said. According to Holbrook, it is not possible to tell from the traffic photo if the Altima had a flat tire or was disabled.
Police are also searching for the blue pickup truck that Vence says the suspects used to abduct him and his children. A “representative photo” of what Vence said the truck looks like was also released by police:
“If anyone knows of any Hispanic males in similar trucks who have committed violent crimes, we want to hear about it. If this happened, I’d like to know about it, if anyone has seen these people. I’d love to know more about that. I’d love to know where this vehicle [the Altima] is, because somebody drove it, somebody’s got it. And that vehicle could have a lot of evidence in it that I want,” Holbrook told reporters.
“Detectives ask anyone who saw Derion or Maleah after 9 pm Friday (May 3) to 6 pm on Sat to contact HPD Homicide 713-308-3600 or @CrimeStopHOU at 713-222-TIPS,” Houston Police said on Twitter.
Detectives and officers have been searching for the vehicles.
4. Police Say Vence Does Not Remember Much of a 24-Hour Period of His Life & Investigators Are Hoping the Public Can Help Fill in the ‘Blanks’
Derion Vence, “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 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.
According to Holbrook, Vence is at home with his family.
5. Maleah Lives With Her Mother, Stepfather & 2 Siblings in Southwest Houston
Maleah Davis lives in an apartment in southwest Houston with her mother, Brittany Bowens, her stepfather, Derion Vence, and two siblings. According to police, Bowens and Vence are the parents of Maleah’s 1-year-old brother, who was with Vence and Maleah at the time of the alleged abduction. Maleah has an older sibling who was not with her and Vence. Both of her siblings are with other family members now, police said.
Bowens and Vence have family members who live in Sugar Land, according to Houston Police Sergeant Mark Holbrook. The sergeant said he was “not sure” if they had any contact with the family prior to this case. He said Vence does not have a criminal record.
Derion Vence goes by the name Slim Vence on Facebook and works in the music industry. 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.