By Jeffrey L. Boney, NNPA Newswire Contributor
The case involving little Maleah Davis has caused a major stir across the Greater Houston area, as the details surrounding the case have gone from disturbing to downright heart wrenching.
There have been prayer vigils, balloon releases, news conferences, community-wide searches in the area where she was staying, but there has still been no sign of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis. The disappearance of little Maleah has members of the Greater Houston community outraged, as well as fervently searching for answers as to what actually happened to her.
It all began on Friday night, May 3rd, when 26-year-old Derion Vence told police he was on his way to George Bush Intercontinental Airport to pick up Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, who was on her way home on a return flight from a funeral in Massachusetts. Vence was driving in the vehicle with little Maleah and his 1-year-old son. Vence was Bowens’ fiancé.
According to police, Vence told them he heard a popping noise, as if from a flat tire, and decided to pull over on the side of the road to check out the status of the vehicle. It was at that time that Vence told police that a strange blue Chevrolet crew cab pickup truck pulled up behind them and two Hispanic gentlemen immediately hopped out, allegedly making a reference about the way little Maleah’s physical appearance caught their attention.
Vence told police that one of the men hit him on the head, causing him to lose temporary consciousness. After regaining consciousness, Vence then told police that he and the children had been abducted and found themselves riding in the back of the truck, where the two Hispanic men who confronted Vence and another Hispanic suspect, were inside the truck as well.
This is where the details of what happened to little Maleah get really murky and confusing.
Vence states that he had been going in and out of consciousness for hours, until around 6 p.m. on the following day – Saturday, May 4, and he then told police that the suspects randomly released him and his son in Sugar Land, Texas, which is located over 40 miles away in southwest Houston, but kept little Maleah. It was upon gaining consciousness that Vence told police that he mustered up enough strength to walk with his unharmed 1-year-old son to Methodist Sugar Land Hospital nearby, where he was treated for minor injuries.
It was also at the hospital that Vence reported Maleah missing and the drama really began.
More and more, Vence’s story began to change and unravel, making him a prime suspect in the eyes of law enforcement officials, relative to the abduction of little Maleah.
After having the silver Nissan Altima with Texas paper tags that was owned by Bowens reported stolen, surveillance video later showed the same vehicle Vence had reported stolen being used to drop him off at the same hospital Vence and his son allegedly walked to.
On Thursday, May 9th, the missing silver Nissan Maxima was found by police in a parking lot in Missouri City, Texas, and what police found in the trunk increased suspicions about Vence and began to shed light on what could have possibly happened to little Maleah.
In the truck of the car, police found a laundry basket and a gas can. What makes these items that were found so significant, is the surveillance video footage that came from a neighbor’s house that appears to paint a troubling picture about Vence and the major role he may have played in little Maleah’s overall disappearance.
Disturbing images from the surveillance video footage show the last seen or known images of little Maleah from Tuesday, April 30th, where she is seen wearing a bright pink tutu and trailing behind Vence as he is headed back into their apartment.
This happened to be the same day Bowens left to go out of town for her father’s funeral.
After several days pass, little Maleah is never seen again on any of the surveillance footage.
Vence and his young son, however, can be seen coming out of the apartment on the day that the alleged abduction took place, which raises serious questions about what happened to little Maleah and why she was never seen on surveillance video again.
In one of the clips from May 3rd, Vence is seen carrying a laundry basket with a black trash bag in it, away from the apartment where the family lived. Then in another clip, Vence is seen carrying a bottle of bleach with his son following him out of the apartment, moments before they head out to allegedly go pick Bowens up from the airport.
These findings caused police to investigate Vence further, particularly look for clues inside the apartment and the vehicle that was allegedly stolen. Police used canine officers who are trained to identify the scent of a body and as a result, the canine officers sensed human decomposition in the trunk of the vehicle. At the apartment, police used a chemical agent that can discover blood that cannot be viewed by the human eye and found blood in the hallway leading to bathroom and on various surfaces in the bathroom.
As a result of their findings, police arrested Vence on Saturday, May 11th, in connection with little Maleah’s disappearance and according to court documents, he has been charged with tampering with evidence, namely a human corpse, after the smell of decomposing human remains was detected in the trunk of a car he had driven.
After holding press conferences and interviews pleading for little Maleah’s safe return, Bowens finally broke down and told investigators that Vence had been abusing little Maleah and recently said through her spokesman, civil rights activist Quanell X, that she believes Vence harmed the girl and is not fully certain that she may still be alive.
According to CPS officials, little Maleah had been removed from the home, along with her brothers, for investigated allegations of physical abuse, this past August. Little Maleah had suffered a significant head injury, but a judge ruled that the children should be returned home under the care of Bowens and Vence in February. Bowens states that the children were returned because it had been determined that little Maleah suffered the head injury as a result of a fall, not because of any physical abuse that had taken place.
Cases like this tend to get reported quite often, and unfortunately, it takes the entire community to help identify and recognize the signs of abuse, so as to protect these vulnerable children like little Maleah and countless others. According to the World Health Organization, child maltreatment is defined as the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. Every year, there are an estimated 41,000 homicide deaths in children under 15 years of age. It is important to emphasize that children are the victims and are never to blame for maltreatment.
One of the major characteristics of that increases the likelihood of a child being maltreated is the fact that they either under four years old or an adolescent.
There are three different types of people who carry out abductions – a family member, an acquaintance or a stranger.
According to statistics from the Children’s Assessment Center, 95 percent of victims of child abuse and who become unfortunate homicide victims, know their abuser.
According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Justice, here in the U.S., a child is abducted or turns up missing every 40 seconds, and only one out of every 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive. Going further, about 20 percent of children who are reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as having been abducted by someone outside of their family are not found alive.
It is important and time-sensitive that abducted children are found immediately, because Department of Justice statistics also show that 74 percent of children who are killed, become murder victims within three hours of being abducted, and roughly 89 percent of those children are murdered 24 hours after being abducted. As it relates to little Maleah, we are well past the three-hour timeframe and everyone is seeking answers and closure.
Vence was initially given a bail amount of $999,999, but this past Monday, May 13th, a judge reduced his bail to $45,000, according to Harris County Jail records.
Many members of the community are not only coming for Vence and demanding answers, many are also blaming Bowens for being complicit in the alleged abuse and the current disappearance of her daughter, with one person calling her a “murderer” as she got on the elevator and exited the courthouse on Monday.
In the meantime, the search continues for little Maleah. She is described as being 3 feet tall and weighing 30 to 40 pounds. She was last seen having a pink bow in her hair and wearing a light blue Under Armour zip-up jacket, blue jeans and some gray, pink and white Under Armour tennis shoes. Any information about her whereabouts at this point will bring healing to a community that is in desperate need of answers and who have embraced this little 4-year-old girl.
Crime Stoppers has currently offered a $5,000 reward for anyone with information regarding little Maleah’s disappearance. Although many tips and leads have come in, nothing has panned out and led to little Maleah’s whereabouts. Anyone that has information about the overall case and little Maleah’s whereabouts are being asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.