Vence, described by police as the girl’s stepfather, said he was with her and his 1-year-old son in Houston when he was forced to pull over.
When he got out of his car, three men approached him and knocked him out. When he came to, he was in Sugar Land and Maleah was gone.
Vence was arrested on May 11 after police found blood in his apartment and discrepancies in his story. Vence was also seen carrying a laundry basket from the apartment with a black trash bag inside, police said. That basket was later found in the trunk of a Nissan he’d been driving along with a gas can.
Vence is a former mail carrier who had a route in Rosharon, a rural area, reported KTRK. According to the broadcaster, he once said that the route would be a good place to hide a body.
Tim Miller of Texas EquuSearch, a group helping with the search for Maleah, said his crews are going along the route, trying to find evidence.
Miller said that Vence told his mother-in-law that he could hide a body in Rosharon if he ever killed anybody.
“He actually said to his mother-in-law a year ago, he said, ‘man, if I ever killed anybody, I’ve got some places down in Rosharon where they’d never find the body,'” Miller told the Houston Chronicle. Family members confirmed the mother-in-law’s account, he said.
Still, with no clues emerging, the teams were ready to move on.
“It is frustrating. We’ve been here before with other cases. We’re trying to evaluate what to do after today. We’re seriously flirting with the idea of suspending the search at the end of the day. We’re hoping some new information comes in,” Miller said.
“This is a baby. This baby did not choose where it’s at right now and doesn’t want to be where it’s at right now. It’s heartbreaking. We’re human. I wish we weren’t. I wish we didn’t have feelings. Unfortunately, we do. I don’t want our emotions to get in the way. At times, that happens. God bless her. We’re not going to quit. We may suspend, but we’ll never quit.”
Vence’s brother, meanwhile, insisted that he is innocent.
Joe Vence spoke to KPRC after visiting his brother in jail on Tuesday.
“He wants the world to know he’s innocent,” Vence said. “We had conversations about our family. He’s very strong, he’s a good man.”
“Maleah, I love her and hopefully they get all this stuff straightened out,” he added.
Bowens, Maleah’s mother, said through a representative that Vence was her ex-fiancé and that she’d recently called off the engagement.
“When that happened, I believe that he psychologically snapped—already on top of being abusive to Maleah. He did this to hurt the mother in a way that she would never recover,” civil rights activist Quanell X, who is representing Bowens, told CBS over the weekend.