A Houston judge set bond at $1 million for Derion Vence, the "stepfather" of 4-year-old Maleah Davis who has been missing for more than a week.
Vence, 26, told police he was carjacked by three Hispanic males who knocked him unconscious and took Maleah.
Vence was arrested on Saturday at his brother's home in Sugar Land, TX, about 22 miles southwest of Houston.
Vence made his first court appearance at a bond hearing late Saturday. He showed no reaction when an assistant district attorney read the charges to him via CCTV.
A public defender asked Judge Courtney St. Julian to set Vence's bond at $5,000. The public defender claimed Vence was gainfully employed and a longtime resident of Houston who did not pose a flight risk.
The DA disagreed, saying Vence was linked to the death of a child and he showed deception in interviews with law enforcement. The state asked the judge to set a $500,000 bond.
Judge St. Julian noted that the case received global media attention and notoriety, partially because Maleah was "an adorable little girl who captured the hearts and attention of just about everyone in the world."
The judge cited Vence's deception and the fact that police were unable to locate him in the days leading up to his arrest. His bond was set at $1 million for tampering with a corpse, a 2nd-degree felony.
Vence reportedly told Sugar Land police they would not find any blood in the apartment he shared with Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens. He also said no one bled in the apartment recently.
A team from the Houston PD forensics dept. sprayed a chemical reagent inside the apartment that revealed the presence of blood not visible to the naked eye. Blood was found on various surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen, according to Houston community activist Quanell X. The blood was linked to a sample of Maleah's DNA taken from her toothbrush.
Traces of blood and human flesh were also found in the drain traps and plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom. Human tissue was collected from the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink.
Quanell said evidence collected inside the apartment reveals Vence dismembered the girl's body before disposing of her remains in an unknown location. Officers observed blood droplets in a hallway leading to the bathroom and "blood on various surfaces in the bathroom."
— Charly Edsitty (@CharlyABC13) May 12, 2019
Community members gathered to honor the missing child on Sunday. Dozens of supporters spent Mother's Day at a gas station across the street from the apartment complex.
The Parents Against Predators helped organize a balloon release. A pastor said a prayer for Maleah, and several mothers took turns expressing their grief and concern for the girl. Then the crowd walked across the street and went to the door of the apartment where Maleah once lived.
They placed stuffed bears and balloons at the door of the apartment that is sealed off as a crime scene after police executed a search warrant last week.
Video captured on a neighbor's security camera on May 3 showed Vence leaving the apartment with a large blue laundry basket and a black trash bag. Later, the camera captures him emerging from the apartment with his 2-year-old son and carrying what appears to be cleaning supplies, including a large bottle of Clorox bleach.
New surveillance photos from the neighbor's security camera show Maleah running behind Vence into the apartment in the days before she was reported missing.
The images show Maleah trailing behind Vence as he enters the apartment. Maleah is never seen alive on camera again.
The footage was captured on April 30, the same day Bowens left town to attend her father's funeral in Massachusetts.
In text messages allegedly sent to a friend after Maleah was reported missing, a person identified as Bowens appears to panic after learning of the existence of the security footage. She'd previously told police that Vence dropped her three children off at daycare on April 30, and that she never saw Maleah again.
But the security footage shows Maleah returning to the family's apartment with Vence while Bowens was at home on the morning of April 30.
In the texts, Bowens allegedly claimed she had no idea her daughter was inside the apartment while she was there.
"He must have snuck her in," Bowens allegedly texted the friend, adding that she was on the back porch smoking a cigarette when Maleah come back in. She said Maleah didn’t say anything.
On Thursday, May 9, police located the silver Nissan Altima that Vence claimed was stolen by the carjackers. The car, which was registered to Bowens, was found abandoned with the doors unlocked in a shopping center parking lot in Missouri City, Texas.
Surveillance video at the hospital shows Vence was dropped off outside the hospital by someone driving the same Nissan Altima on May 4. Vence is seen carrying his son into the hospital at 11:30 p.m. It is there that he first reports Maleah missing.
Quanell X confirmed the driver who dropped Vence off at the hospital is a "family member."
On Friday, May 10, the car was processed for evidence. Police recovered a large blue laundry basket from the trunk, along with a can of gasoline. The laundry basket was similar to the one Vence was seen carrying from the apartment.
Two K-9 cadaver dogs walked around the vehicle and other cars in the parking lot. Both canine officers detected the scent of human decomposition in the Nissan's trunk.
At that point an arrest warrant was obtained for tampering with a corpse.
Vence is due back in court on Monday, May 13. The case is assigned to Judge DaSean Jones, 180th District Court. Vence faces first-degree murder and other felony charges that make him eligible for the death penalty.
He is being held at the Harris County Jail. The jail's website lists Vence's bond at $999,999.