Where is Maleah? Plot thickens in case of missing Houston girl

4-year-old disappeared more than a week ago

These undated photos of Maleah Davis were released by the Houston Police Department.
These undated photos of Maleah Davis were released by the Houston Police Department.

The latest Amber Alert to make national headlines continues to unfold in Houston, where a 4-year-old girl disappeared more than a week ago.

Maleah Davis was reported missing May 4.

Her stepfather, 26-year-old Derion Vence, now faces charges in connection with Maleah's disappearance.

Our news partner in Houston, KPRC-TV, has been following the case since it broke, most recently reporting that authorities were searching along Vence's former mail route in Rosharon. The U.S. Postal Service confirmed Vence had been employed there from June 2017 through August 2018.

On Tuesday, they had combed an area near a local haunted house as they investigated a tip. [Read full storyMaleah Davis search expands to haunted house]

Other links from KPRC:

Search for Maleah Davis underway along stepfather’s former mail route in Rosharon
This is what happened Tuesday in search for Maleah Davis
Surveillance photo shows last time Maleah was seen
Timeline of the Maleah Davis case
Inside Click2Houston: Where is Maleah?

Vence made his first court appearance over the weekend after he was arrested and charged with tampering with evidence -- namely, a human corpse. Also, according to court documents, blood evidence recovered in the family’s apartment matched Maleah’s DNA, which was collected from her toothbrush.

To rewind, Vence has said that he, his toddler son, and Maleah were attacked by a group of men in a truck when Vence stopped to change a tire. He told investigators he was knocked out during the attack and when he regained consciousness, Maleah and the family’s Nissan Altima were gone.

That’s what triggered the Amber Alert and led to searches near the family’s apartment in southwest Houston. Authorities say that’s the last place Maleah was seen.

But police have said Vence’s story has changed and didn’t add up.

The Nissan was found last Thursday, which is when trained dogs detected the scent of human decomposition in the trunk, officials said.

Vence was scheduled for a court appearance this week. It was moved to July 10.

When he was arrested, a judge set Vence's bond at $999,999, but it has since been reduced to $45,000. At last check, Vence remained in jail.

Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, was heckled earlier this week outside a courtroom, by people who questioned if she had done enough to protect Maleah before the girl’s disappearance.

Derion Vence, Maleah Davis and Brittany Bowens (KPRC photo).
Derion Vence, Maleah Davis and Brittany Bowens (KPRC photo).


Child Protective Services removed Maleah from the apartment Vence and Bowens shared in August after the girl suffered a head wound, but she was returned in February, according to an agency spokeswoman.

Authorities have declined to say whether they believe Maleah is dead or if Vence may have killed her. Prosecutors, though, have said in court documents that Vence eventually could face additional charges, including murder.

Vence wants everyone to know he’s innocent, his brother, Joe, said Tuesday after he spoke with him for about 20 minutes from jail, KPRC reports.

“Maleah, I love her, and hopefully they get all this stuff straightened out,” Joe Vence said.

More from KPRC: 'He's innocent': Brother of Derion Vence speaks to brother at jail

More from CNNOnce again, police suspect caretaker in case of missing child

With information from The Associated Press.

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