The brother of the man suspected in the disappearance of 4-year-old Maleah Davis said: “he wants the world to know he’s innocent.”
Joe Vence, who spoke to his brother for 20 minutes Tuesday, called him a “good man,” CNN affiliate KTRK reported.
“Once God is with you, the whole world, the whole city, everybody can be against you,” Joe Vence told KTRK. “We’re a strong, praying family. God is on our side. God is with my brother.”
Derion Vence was arrested Saturday and booked into Harris County jail on suspicion of tampering with evidence — a human corpse, according to police, who have not said if Maleah is believed to be alive.
His arrest came a week after he told authorities he, the young girl and his toddler son had been abducted by a trio of Hispanic men who knocked him unconscious. They had been on their way to the airport to pick up Maleah’s mother,
Vence’s ex-fiance. When he awoke on the side of a road after nearly 24 hours, he said the young girl wasn’t there, so he walked to a hospital and reported her missing.
On Tuesday, the search for the young girl expanded to a haunted house in Rosharon, an unincorporated community in Brazoria County, CNN affiliate KPRC reported. Members of Texas EquuSearch teams told the affiliate they were combing through an area near the Creepy Hollow Haunted House after receiving a tip.
“We are looking for anything that doesn’t belong. As you drive along or walk along and see something, well, this shouldn’t be here,” Jack Boggess, the search coordinator for Texas EquuSearch told KPRC.
A Story Unravels
Nearly two weeks ago, Vence told investigators that he heard a popping noise on the way to the airport with Maleah and his son, and pulled over to check on it.
When he stopped, Vence said a blue pickup truck pulled up behind him and two Hispanic men got out.
One of the men commented, “Maleah looks very nice, looks very sweet,” according to Vence’s account to police. The other one hit Vence and knocked him out.
When he woke up a day later, Vence told police his son was there, but Maleah was gone. At the time, police reported the car Vence was driving, a silver Nissan Altima belonging to Maleah’s mother, was also missing.
Vence said he walked to a nearby hospital and reported the girl missing.
But evidence gathered in the case and detailed in court documents doesn’t match the story Vence recounted to police. Surveillance footage shows him being dropped off to the hospital he says he walked to, in the vehicle he said was stolen during his abduction.
Authorities later recovered that car in a shopping mall’s parking lot, about 5 miles from where Vence said he woke up.
When authorities inspected the vehicle, they discovered a blue laundry basket along with a gas can, according to probable cause documents in Vence’s arrest.
According to those documents, police also had two separate dogs trained to pick up the smell of cadavers walk around the vehicle and other vehicles in the parking lot. Both dogs barked at the trunk of the Altima, the documents state, indicating the “scent of decomposition in the vehicle.”
There is a “substantial likelihood” Vence will be charged with murder, court documents state. If the 26-year-old is convicted of tampering with a human corpse—a second-degree felony in Texas—he faces between two to 20 years in prison.
In court documents dated Saturday, a Harris County assistant district attorney argued for Vence to be held on a bond of $1 million because “there is a substantial likelihood that additional charges may be forthcoming, including but not limited to the first-degree felony offense of murder.”
Vence’s bond was set at $999,999, then lowered to $45,000, according to jail records. He was scheduled to appear in court Monday but the hearing was moved to July 10, online records say.
His attorney, Thomas H. Burton III, told CNN that he has not seen the evidence in the case against Vence, so would not comment on the case.
CNN reached out to Vence several times last week but did not hear back.
Blood Linked To Maleah Found In The Apartment
According to court documents, investigators discovered blood linked to Maleah inside the apartment Vence shares with Maleah’s mother.
Investigators found blood evidence in the hallway and bathroom which was “consistent’ with DNA taken from Maleah’s toothbrush, according to court documents.
More blood was found by using a “chemical reagent” that reacts to the presence of blood that may not be visible to the eye, such as when a person has attempted to clean it up, the documents state. Testing subsequently linked the blood sample to Maleah.
Vence allegedly told investigators “that there should be no blood in the home and that no one was recently bleeding.”
Investigators also saw footage that was captured from the porch of an apartment next to Vence’s, the affidavit said.
In the footage, Vence is seen leaving the apartment on May 3 with a large blue laundry basket with a black trash bag inside.
He returned a few minutes later, court documents state and walked back out carrying cleaning supplies, including bleach.
According to the affidavit, the camera never again captured Maleah leaving the apartment.
By Christina Maxouris, CNN