The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Police say Maleah Davis’s body was found in Arkansas. The 4-year-old had been missing since early May.

Members of the Texas EquuSearch team look for 4-year-old Maleah Davis last month in Humble, Tex. (Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle/AP)
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The remains were found in a garbage bag off the side of a road in Fulton, Ark., on Friday, just a short drive from the state’s border with Texas.

That morning, Quanell X, an activist in Houston, told reporters that a man he spoke to in jail had admitted to putting a girl’s body in a bag and then driving to that area.

The man, Derion Vence, was the former partner of the girl’s mother, Brittany Bowens.

On Monday, forensic authorities formally identified the child’s remains as those of Maleah Davis, Bowens’s daughter, who had reportedly been in Vence’s care while her mother was out of town.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, which made the identification, told The Washington Post that it had yet to determine the cause and manner of the girl’s death.

Maleah was reported missing in Houston in early May, and her story quickly drew wide attention in the city and beyond.

Vence told police that he and Maleah and his 2-year-old son were abducted by three men as they were driving to the airport. He told investigators that he and the boy had been left on the side of the highway but that the girl was still missing, adding that he did not recall much of what happened because he had been knocked unconscious.

The girl had significant health problems, including multiple brain surgeries, and had been ill in the days leading up to her disappearance, police had said.

But about a week after her abduction, police arrested Vence, 27, and charged him with tampering with evidence after the smell of human remains was detected in his car, according to court documents cited by NBC News. Vence is being held in lieu of a $45,000 bond.

Police said surveillance video showed that Vence’s silver Nissan, which he told police had been taken during the abduction, was used by somebody to drop Vence off at a hospital after the alleged abduction. They also said they found Maleah’s blood in Vence’s apartment.

A 4-year-old is missing. Her stepfather says kidnappers knocked him out and abducted her.

According to CNN, court affidavits say that investigators reviewed video footage, taken from a neighbor of Vence, that shows Maleah entering his apartment but not coming out. CNN reported that Vence was seen carrying a laundry basket with a trash bag inside as he left the apartment May 3.

The discovery of Maleah’s body followed Quanell X’s disclosure.

Quanell told local news outlets Friday that Vence, whom he had spoken to in jail, told him that the girl was dead and that her body had been dropped off by the side of a road in Arkansas near the state’s border with Texas.

“Derion snapped,” Quanell told ABC13, telling the outlet that Vence told him he was overwhelmed by the effort of caring for Maleah and his other children.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman told the Houston Chronicle that prosecutors were looking to file murder charges against Vence.

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