Houston police have arrested the stepfather of 4-year-old Maleah Davis who went missing a week ago. Derion Vence, 26, was taken into custody Saturday at a relative's home in Sugar Land, Texas.
The fugitive was tracked down by the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force after he stopped returning detectives' calls earlier in the week.
ABC 13 reports that Vence is charged with tampering with a corpse. Investigators believe Vence burned Maleah's body after he murdered her sometime between April 30 and May 3.
Vence told police he was carjacked in northeast Houston on Friday, May 3, and dropped off with his 2-year-old son in Sugar Land. He said he was knocked unconscious by one of the carjackers. When he woke up nearly 24 hours later on the side of Highway 6, his son was with him but Maleah was gone.
Vence was captured on surveillance video leaving the apartment he shared with Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens. He was seen carrying a large laundry basket with a black garbage bag inside.
Authorities believed the garbage bag contained the little girl's body.
The news of Vence's arrest comes one day after Houston community activist Quanell X held a press conference to share "urgent" information about Maleah.
Quanell said police removed "forensic evidence" from the apartment "that indicates a crime took place inside that apartment."
Police stated there is blood evidence inside the apartment. The blood is linked to Maleah through DNA, according to ABC 13.
"He told her he was cleaning up the apartment," Quanell said. "She didn't understand why he would be cleaning up the apartment. But he went and bought an extra bottle of Clorox and came back."
Bowens waited until the next day to call 911 to report her daughter missing.
A police source tells ABC 13 that Maleah was last seen on the apartment complex surveillance camera on April 30, the same day her mother flew to Massachusetts to attend her father's funeral.
The camera captured Vence bringing Maleah back to the apartment that same morning. She is never seen on surveillance video again.
On May 3, cameras captured Vence leaving the apartment with his 2-year-old son and a large laundry basket with a black garbage bag inside.
The owner of the daycare where Maleah attended said her staff last saw Maleah on April 26. The owner said Vence dropped off his 2-year-old son on Friday, May 3, but Maleah wasn't with him.
Quanell said Bowens told him she suspected her fiancé was molesting Maleah. He said Bowens also confronted Vence about bathing Maleah. He said Bowens didn't report her suspicions to authorities because she could not recall the information.
Bowens reportedly broke up with Vence after she searched his cell phone and found explicit nude photos he'd sent to another man.
"On the day that Brittany left to be with her sick father - her dying father - to be with family, there was a huge fight between her and him," Quanell said. "He was hurt, he was angry, he was upset."
Quanell said Bowens believed Vence killed her daughter because he was angry over the discovery of the explicit text messages on his phone.
Police considered Vence a suspect in Maleah's disappearance after he changed his story multiple times.
Vence stopped returning detectives' calls and he failed to show up for work at PharMEDium, a sterile drug compounding pharmacy in Sugar Land. Employees there said he was absent for a week after he vomited at work and was sent home. Vence told his boss he was sick with the flu.
On Thursday, police located Vence's stolen Nissan Altima that was abandoned in a shopping center parking lot in Missouri City, Texas. Police recovered a large laundry basket and a can of gasoline in the trunk of the vehicle.
Police say the same vehicle was captured on surveillance video at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital on May 4, where Vence claimed he walked for treatment of a head wound after he was knocked out by a carjacker who then took Maleah.
Meanwhile, Bowens was waiting at the Bush Intercontinental Airport for Vence to pick her up but he never showed. She called a relative to pick her up. She did not report Maleah missing until the next day.
In August, Child Protective Services removed Maleah and her two brothers, then-ages 5 and 1, from the apartment while they investigated a head injury Bowens said Maleah suffered in a fall from a high chair. Doctors at the hospital doubted Bowens' story. Maleah later underwent multiple surgeries to decrease intracranial pressure inside her head.
The three children were returned to Bowens in February, after CPS determined Maleah's head injury occurred during an accidental fall.
On Wednesday, a judge reportedly banned Bowens and Vence from contacting Bowens' two surviving children, ages 6 and 2.
The two boys are currently in the custody of Bowens's mother who asked a judge to terminate Bowens' parental rights. Bowens is not yet charged with Maleah's murder.
In a lengthy post on Facebook.com, Quanell defended his decision to represent Bowens. He said she should have told the police what she knew earlier, but he does not have the right to be her judge.
"I stood with her for the sake of bringing about new information that would help investigators in the search for Maleah. Also I am a follower of Jesus Christ who stood with prostitutes and sinners from all walks of life," he wrote. “I do not have the authority nor righteous right to be her judge."
BREAKING DETAILS! Through activist Quanell X, Mom claims she argued w/ stepdad in past about him “whipping” Maleah. Claims months ago, she confronted him about bruises on Maleah, threatened to take her to hospital but stepdad said no. #abc13 #MaleahDavis https://t.co/GsOZQQb3Nm
— Samica Knight (@SamicaKnight13) May 10, 2019
New disturbing evidence in the disappearance of little #MaleahDavis. Her mom and a community activist say there is new information connected to the day she went missing: A video showing Maleah's stepdad leaving their apartment with some suspicious items. pic.twitter.com/AWdEX5a73C
— HLN (@HLNTV) May 11, 2019
— SweetNLopez????? (@kimksmells) May 10, 2019
— #savagegirl (@SandraM85802406) May 10, 2019
@jayis4justice #DerionVence left apt 5/3 w basket & bag. 5/4 at up at hosp w/ son & no #MaleahDavis. Injuries allegedly received by 2-3 Hispanic males claims stole car, knocked him out & took Maleah. Stepdad MIA#SugarLand #Houston #Texas #Missing #JamieTexasChick #JayIs4Justice pic.twitter.com/NZZyPIUsWZ
— Jamie Texas Chick (@JamieTexasChick) May 11, 2019