Missing Houston Girl Case: Dogs Detect Decomposition in Trunk, New Photos Emerge - NBC Connecticut
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Missing Houston Girl Case: Dogs Detect Decomposition in Trunk, New Photos Emerge

Vence's next court appearance was set for Monday but was canceled; investigators found blood at the apartment, both in the hallway leading to the bathroom and on surfaces inside the bathroom

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    Dogs Detect Decomposition in Case of Missing 4-Year-Old Girl

    Trained dogs detected the scent of human decomposition in the vehicle of a man arrested in connection with the disappearance of a 4-year-old Texas girl, according to a prosecutor. (Published Monday, May 13, 2019)

    Two new photos obtained from a police source in Houston may shed new details into the disappearance of 4-year-old Maleah Davis, a young girl missing since May 3.

    A photo obtained Monday by KRPC-TV in Houston may show the last time Maleah was seen before her disapperance. According to a KPRC-TV police source, the surveillance photo shows the child with her mother's boyfriend, 26-year-old Derion Vence, walking into the family's apartment just before 8 a.m. on April 30.

    A police source in Houston shared surveillance photos apparently showing Derion Vance arriving at his apartment, with Maleah Davis, on April 30. Photo obtained by KPRC-TV from a police source.
    Photo credit: KPRC-TV

    Later that same day, Vence is seen on a neighbor's surveillance video walking through the complex alone.

    Another surveillance photo shows Vence leaving the family's apartment at about 6:47 p.m. May 3, about the time he said he left for the airport to pick up her mother, and Maleah is not with him, though her younger brother is. According to the police source, Vence is seen carrying a bottle of bleach in the photo.

    A police source in Houston shared surveillance photos apparently showing Derion Vance leaving his apartment May 3 without Maleah Davis. Photo obtained by KPRC-TV from a police source.
    Photo credit: KPRC-TV

    The investigation into Vence began after he told police on May 4 that he, Maleah and his 2-year-old son, left a day earlier to go to the airport to pickup their mother. Along the way, Vence said, he stopped because he thought he may have had a flat tire. He said he was then confronted by several men in a truck who abducted them but later freed him and the boy. Vence told investigators he was left in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land and walked to a hospital, where he reported the girl's abduction.

    Vence, who had lived with Maleah and her mother, reported that his silver Nissan Altima was taken in the abduction, but surveillance video showed that vehicle was used to drop Vence off at the hospital. Police found the car Thursday.

    Vence remained jailed Monday in Houston on a $1 million bond after being arrested Saturday on a charge of tampering with evidence, specifically a human corpse, after trained dogs detected the scent of human decomposition in his vehicle. Dogs trained to find cadavers reacted to the trunk of the car, Pat Stayton, a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said at Vence's probable cause court hearing Saturday night.

    Surveillance video from a neighbor showed Derion Vence carrying a large, blue laundry basket with a large trash bag from his apartment on May 3, a Harris County prosecutor said. (Published May 13, 2019)
    Photo credit: KPRC

    Houston police said investigators have not found Maleah Davis and the investigation is continuing.

    Authorities have declined to say whether they believe Vence killed Maleah. But prosecutors said in court documents filed Saturday that Vence could face additional charges, including murder.

    Vence's next court appearance was set for Monday, but that court appeance was canceled.

    Outside the courtroom Monday, Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, was heckled by a group of people who questioned if she had done enough to protect her daughter.

    Quanell X, a community activist and spokesman for Bowens, said outside the courtroom Bowens' main concern is what happened to her daughter. As he spoke, he was drowned out by a group, including family members of Maleah's father, who yelled "justice for Maleah" and "murderer."

    Sugar Land police, who initially interviewed Vence, said his story kept changing and didn't add up.

    Surveillance video from a neighbor showed Vence carrying a large, blue laundry basket with a large trash bag from his apartment on May 3, Stayton said. Vence returned three minutes later without the basket and later he was seen leaving the apartment with cleaning supplies, including bleach.

    In the silver Nissan, police found a laundry basket that looked like the one Vence took out of his apartment, Stayton said.

    "Both of the dogs reacted to the trunk of the silver Nissan that the defendant had driven and that the blue laundry basket was recovered from, indicating that the dogs were responding to the scent of human decomposition in the vehicle," Stayton said.

    Investigators also found blood at the apartment, both in the hallway leading to the bathroom and on surfaces inside the bathroom, Stayton said.

    At Saturday night's hearing, Vence said he planned to hire a defense attorney.

    Rodney Brown, an attorney appointed to represent Vence only for Saturday's hearing, had asked a magistrate judge to set bond at $5,000, saying Vence was a low flight risk and had lived in Houston most of his life.

    Stayton argued that Vence was a flight risk and there was "evidence of deception on the part of the defendant with regard to information he gave to police."

    Police have described Vence as Maleah's stepfather, but Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, said through a spokesman that Vence is her former fiance and that she and Vence lived together and were once engaged, but that she recently broke off the engagement.

    Quanell X, a local civil rights activist who spoke to reporters on Bowens' behalf on Friday, also said that Vence had abused Maleah.

    Child Protective Services removed Maleah and her brothers from the home Vence and Bowens shared in August after the girl suffered a head wound, but the children were returned in February, according to an agency spokeswoman.