The stepfather of a missing 4-year-old Houston girl was arrested after blood was found in his apartment and traces of human decomposition were detected in his trunk.
Derion Vence, 26, was arrested Saturday and booked into the Harris County jail on suspicion of “tampering with evidence, namely a corpse,”. He is currently being held on a $1 million bond while investigators believe more charges may be forthcoming, “including but not limited to the first-degree felony offense of murder.”
Maleah was last seen alive on April 30 when she was captured on surveillance video entering her family’s apartment complex with Vence, the same day her mother, Brittany Bowens, flew out of town for a funeral. The 4-year-old was never seen leaving the home again.
On May 3, one day before Maleah was officially reported missing, cameras captured Vence leaving the apartment with his toddler son, Kourtland, and a large laundry basket which had a black trash bag inside.
Vence was arrested one week later after an inspection of the apartment he shared with Maleah’s mother revealed blood droplets in a hallway leading to the bathroom and on surfaces throughout the bathroom.
Testing confirmed the blood evidence found at the apartment matched Maleah’s DNA, which was taken from her toothbrush.
Vence initially wove an intricate tale of his step daughter’s disappearance for investigators, claiming she was abducted while they were on the way to pick up her mother at Bush Intercontinental Airport around 9 p.m. on May 3.
He told police he heard a “popping noise” while driving down a highway and pulled over, believing the sound was a flat tire, before a blue Chevy truck with three Hispanic men inside pulled up behind the family’s car and approached him.
Vence claimed one of the men made a comment to him that “Maleah looks very nice, looks very sweet,” before hitting him on the head and knocking him unconscious. He said he woke up in the back of the men’s truck with Maleah and Kourtland but that he passed out again and drifted in and out of consciousness until about 6 p.m. on May 4 when he woke up off of Highway 6 in Sugar Land with just his son and no vehicle.
He said he then walked to Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, where he reported the incident and received treatment for a head injury. However, hospital surveillance footage later revealed an unknown person dropping Vence at the hospital while driving the car Vence claimed was stolen from him.
The vehicle in question, a silver Nissan Altima, was recovered on Thursday in a shopping mall’s parking lot in Missouri City, Texas. The large laundry basket was still in the trunk and two canine police units specially trained to pick up the scent of cadavers reacted to it, indicating the presence of human decomposition.
Maleah has black hair and brown eyes, stands at about 3 feet tall and weighs approximately 30 to 40 pounds. She was last seen wearing a light blue Under Armour jacket, blue jeans and gray Under Armour tennis shoes with pink and white details.