The mother of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis broke down in tears Thursday, shouting “Where is by baby?” after investigators found a silver car potentially connected to the case, but no trace of the Houston girl.
Derion Vence, Davis’ stepfather, claimed he had been driving to the airport to pick up the young girl’s mother, Brittany Bowens, last Friday when he stopped the car, a silver Nissan Altima, to check whether he had a flat tire. He said several Hispanic men pulled up behind the car in a blue pickup truck, knocked him out and stole the car.
Vence said he lost consciousness in the attack and vaguely recalled being in the back seat of the truck with Maleah and his 2-year-old son at some point. When he came to nearly 24 hours later, he'd been dropped off at the side of the rode with just his son, he claims. Maleah was gone.
However, investigators have said Vence has changed his version of events several times in the days since the young girl’s disappearance and is now no longer responding to calls from police.
“Each time we have tried to talk to him or have him come in, we have been unsuccessful,” Houston Police Department Homicide Detective Kenneth Fregia told local station KHOU.
Police said they are now “actively searching” for Vence and don’t know whether he’s missing, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Investigators discovered the car Vence claimed had been stolen Thursday—but said the car seemed “normal” and showed no obvious signs of any criminal activity.
“The car looks fine. Everything looks normal on the car. The tires look OK," Fregia said. "It doesn’t mean they weren’t changed at some point, I don’t know.”
The car was discovered—abandoned and unlocked—in a shopping center parking lot in Missouri City, Texas by a woman who had seen the vehicle on an earlier news report.
The woman’s coworker told KTRK that she was devastated by the discovery.
“She is broken, she can’t even hold herself. She is crying, very frantic. Everyone is shaking, because this is like the movies, it doesn’t look real,” Emmanuel Joseph told the station.
The vehicle’s discovery also triggered an emotional response in the young missing girl’s mother, who collapsed at the scene in tears after spotting the car.
“Where is Maleah? Where is my baby?” she yelled.
Employees who work at the shopping center said they believe the car had been dropped off there recently.
Amber Ryan, who works at Avis Rental Car, told The Chronicle she doesn’t think the car was there on Tuesday when she worked and was off on Wednesday, so she wasn’t sure when the vehicle appeared.
Fefe Taylor, who works at Riverstone Dental, also told the paper she didn’t remember seeing the car early Thursday morning when she arrived for her shift at work.
Investigators are continuing to search for Davis, who was removed from her home temporarily last year after concerns of possible abuse at the home. Davis had suffered a head injury, which required several brain surgeries. However, Davis and her two brothers were returned to the home in February and a judge instructed child services workers to monitor the home.
Texas EquuSearch is also assisting in the search but may be hampered as bad weather and heavy rains are expected in the area over the next few days.
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