HOUSTON - The disappearance of 4-year-old Maleah Davis was a story that gripped not only Texas, but parents across the country.
Monday, May 4 marks one year since the man who was later charged in her death told police she’d been abducted.
Up to this point, no one has truly been held responsible for Maleah’s death. Prosecutors never called it a murder despite her mom’s former fiancé admitting to disposing of her body on an Arkansas roadside.
Right now that man, Derion Vence, remains in jail, awaiting trial for felony injury to a child, and tampering with a human corpse.
Let’s rewind to a year ago today:
Saturday, May 4, 2019, Derion Vence showed up at a Sugar Land hospital with a forehead injury. He said he’d been attacked, and his fiance’s 4-year-old daughter Maleah Davis has been abducted.
On Sunday, May 5 an Amber Alert hit Houston-area cell phones, and the search for Maleah began.
That night family and friends of the little girl passed out flyers in Sugar Land, and the next day, Monday, May 6, both police and Texas Equusearch scoured an area near Bush Airport where Vence said the abduction occurred.
But where was Maleah’s mom?
Vence said he was about to pick Brittany Bowens up from the airport when the attack happened. Bowens later told FOX 26 that when Vence never showed up, she got her mom to pick her up from the airport, and she never reported anyone missing despite not hearing from him.
She joined the search for her daughter the day after the Amber Alert--Monday night.
“I just wanna find my baby,” Bowens told FOX 26 while handing out flyers with her daughter’s image on them. “I just want to find her. Help me find her. Please, help me find her.”
That same day police said the family was desperate to find Maleah because she had a traumatic brain injury in March and requires medical attention.
By Tuesday Vence’s abduction story was falling apart, and investigators moved the search to the vicinity of Maleah’s home in Southwest Houston which she shared with Vence and her mom Bowens.
“We’re right next to the apartment complex where we think she disappeared from,” Texas Equusearch founder Tim Miller told reporters as search crews disperse from a staging area in a strip mall parking lot.
It wasn’t until Thursday, May 9 that the car Vence was driving during the supposed abduction was found abandoned in a Missouri City parking lot.
Then a surveillance image emerged—from Vence’s neighbor’s home--showing Vence leaving his apartment with a garbage bag in a basket the morning after Bowens allegedly broke up with him while boarding a flight to Massachusetts for her father’s funeral.
Maleah was never seen after that.
Prosecutor: Dogs detected decomposition in Maleah Davis case
The next day Vence was arrested, charged with tampering with a corpse. Court documents say the laundry basket and a gas can were found in the trunk of the car, and two cadaver dogs confirmed a decomposing body had been inside the trunk. Court documents also said Maleah’s blood was found in the apartment.
It wasn’t until late May that Vence confessed to dumping Maleah’s body on an Arkansas roadside.
“He says it was an accident, and he confessed to me where he dumped her body,” activist Quanell X told reporters of the jailhouse confession Vence made when X went to visit him.
Finally in August, Vence got the new charge--felony injury to a child--causing serious bodily injury, which carries up to a life-in-prison sentence.
After being arraigned in the fall, his court date has been pushed back repeatedly, with the next one now set for May 27. That’s when the prosecution and defense plan to compare facts and evidence in the case.
The key piece of evidence still not seen is Maleah’s autopsy.
The Harris County Medical Examiner’s spokesperson says full autopsy details likely won’t be available until the trial. A trial date has not yet been set.