Trained dogs detected the scent of human decomposition in the car of a man arrested in connection with the puzzling disappearance of Maleah Davis, 4, outside Houston, a prosecutor said.
Derion Vence was in jail Sunday on a $1 million bond after he was arrested Saturday and charged with tampering with evidence – a human corpse. Vence is set to appear in court Monday.
Vence, 26, lived with Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, and is believed to be the last person to see the girl before her disappearance more than a week ago.
Houston police said Maleah has not been found and the investigation is continuing. Authorities have declined to say whether they believe Vence killed the girl, but prosecutors said in court documents filed Saturday that Vence could face additional charges, including murder.
Police have said blood found in Vence’s apartment was linked to Maleah.
Vence initially told police he was assaulted by three men in a truck after stopping for a flat tire on the way to pick up Bowens at the airport on the night of May 4.
Vence said Maleah and his 2-year-old son were with him and they were all abducted by the three men, who knocked him unconscious. When he came to the next day in Sugar Land, about 20 miles southwest of Houston, the girl was missing, Vence told police. He also said the Nissan Altima he was driving was stolen.
Police said surveillance video showed Vence getting dropped off at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital in the silver Altima last Sunday. Police found the car in a parking lot Thursday.
At Vence’s probable cause court hearing Saturday night, Harris County prosecutor Pat Stayton said two dogs trained to find cadavers reacted to the trunk of the car.
“The dogs were responding to the scent of human decomposition in the vehicle,” Stayton said.
Surveillance video from a neighbor had shown Vence carrying a large, blue laundry basket with a large trash bag from his apartment on May 3, Stayton said. Vence returned three minutes later without the basket and later he was seen leaving the apartment with cleaning supplies, including bleach.
In the car, police found a laundry basket that looked like the one Vence took out of his apartment, Stayton said.
Police have described Vence as Maleah’s stepfather, but Bowens said through a spokesman that Vence is her former fiancé.
Child Protective Services removed Maleah and her brothers from the home Vence and Bowens shared in August after the girl sustained a head wound, but the children were returned in February, according to an agency spokeswoman.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Maleah’s grandmother, Brenda Bowens, had tried to get the kids placed at her home instead of in foster care when Child Protective Services conducted an investigation starting in August.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dogs detect human decomposition in car of man arrested in case of missing girl Maleah Davis, 4