(NNPA) – The case involving 4-year-old 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 little Maleah. The disappearance of the small girl 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 May 3, 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 stated that he had been going in and out of consciousness for hours, until around 6 p.m. on the following day, May 4, and he then told police that the suspects kept little Maleah but randomly released him and his unharmed son in Sugar Land, which is located over 40 miles away in southwest Houston.
It was upon gaining consciousness that Vence told police that he mustered up enough strength to walk with his son to Methodist Sugar Land Hospital nearby. There, he was treated for minor injuries and reported Maleah missing and reported Bowens’ silver Nissan Altima with Texas paper tags as stolen.
It was then that 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.
Surveillance video later showed the same vehicle Vence had reported stolen being used to drop him off at the same hospital he and his son allegedly walked to.
On May 9, the missing car was found by police in a parking lot in Missouri City, Texas. In the truck of the car, police found a laundry basket and a gas can, which increased suspicions.
Disturbing surveillance video footage that came from a neighbor’s house appeared to show the last seen or known images of little Maleah from April 30, where she is seen wearing a bright pink tutu and trailing behind Vence as he is headed back into their apartment, the same day Bowens left to go out of town.
After several days pass, little Maleah is never seen again on any of the surveillance footage.
In one of the clips from May 3, Vence is seen leaving the apartment, carrying a laundry basket with a black trash bag in it. Then in another clip, he 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 looking for clues inside the apartment and the vehicle that was allegedly stolen. Police used canine officers trained to identify the scent of a body. The canine officers sensed human decomposition in the trunk of the vehicle. At the apartment, a chemical agent that can discover blood that cannot be viewed by the human eye is used, and blood is found in the hallway leading to the bathroom and on various surfaces in the bathroom.
As a result of their findings, police arrested Vence May 11 in connection with little Maleah’s disappearance and charged him with tampering with evidence, namely a human corpse, after the smell of decomposing human remains was detected in the trunk of the car.
After having held press conferences and interviews pleading for little Maleah’s safe return, Bowens finally broke down and told investigators that Vence had been abusing the 4-year-old and recently said through her spokesman, civil rights activist Quanell X, that she believed her fiancé harmed the girl and is not fully certain that she may still be alive.
Little Maleah had been removed from the home, along with her brothers, for investigated allegations of physical abuse in August, according to CPS officials. The girl had suffered a significant head injury, but a judge ruled that the children should be returned home in February. Bowens states that the children were returned because it had been determined that the head injury was 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 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.
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% of victims of child abuse, and who become unfortunate homicide victims, knew their abuser.
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, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Justice.
Going further, about 20% 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% of children who are killed become murder victims within three hours of being abducted, and roughly 89% of those children are murdered 24 hours after being abducted.
As it relates to little Maleah, we are well past the three-hour time frame and everyone is seeking answers and closure.
Many members of the community are not only demanding answers, but 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 Monday.
In the meantime, the search continues. Maleah is described as being 3 feet tall and weighing 30 to 40 pounds. She was last seen wearing a pink bow in her hair, a light blue Under Armour zip-up jacket, blue jeans and gray, pink and white Under Armour tennis shoes.
Crime Stoppers has currently offered a $5,000 reward for anyone with information regarding her disappearance. Anyone with information can call 713-222-8477.
Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst for the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, an international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and founder and CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.