Police dogs alerted investigators to the “scent of decomposition” in the trunk of the car driven by the man arrested in connection with the disappearance of 4-year-old Maleah Davis, according to court documents.
Derion Vence, 26, was arrested Saturday and booked into the Harris County jail on suspicion of tampering with evidence — a human corpse, according to police, who have not provided information on whether or not Maleah is believed to be alive.
CNN reached out to Vence several times last week but did not hear back. It’s unclear if he has a lawyer.
Now, one week after Maleah was reported missing, public court documents detail the evidence compiled by investigators as they continue to search for her: Blood that matches DNA from her toothbrush. Surveillance footage that contradicts Vence’s story. A blue laundry basket. A gas can.
Evidence contradicts Vence’s story
Vence told investigators he had Maleah and his toddler son in tow when he was driving to the airport to pick up Maleah’s mother on May 4. At some point, he said, he pulled over to check whether a sound coming from his Nissan Altima was a flat tire.
When he stopped, Vence said, several men in a pickup truck pulled up, knocked him out and abducted him, Maleah and his toddler son.
When he woke up a day later, the boy was there but Maleah was gone, he said, according to Houston police. He said he walked to a nearby hospital, police said, where he received medical attention for injuries he said he sustained in the alleged abduction, and reported Maleah missing.
Vence told police the car he was driving was stolen when he was abducted, but surveillance footage viewed by authorities shows Vence being dropped off at the hospital on May 5 in that same vehicle.
The Altima was recovered Thursday in a shopping mall’s parking lot in Missouri City, Texas — 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 Altima 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.”
Blood evidence linked to Maleah
In addition to the conflicting stories about his car, blood evidence obtained from the apartment Vence shares with Maleah’s mother is “consistent” with DNA taken from Maleah’s toothbrush, the documents state.
Houston detectives found drops of blood in the hallway that led to the bathroom and on surfaces in the bathroom.
Investigators discovered evidence of more blood 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.
Vence allegedly told investigators “that there should be no blood in the home and that no one was recently bleeding.”
Testing subsequently linked the blood sample to Maleah.
Surveillance footage shows Maleah never left apartment
Investigators have also seen surveillance footage captured from the porch of an apartment next door to Vence’s, the affidavit said. In the footage, Vence is seen on May 3 leaving the apartment with a large blue laundry basket with a black trash bag inside.
Vence returned a few minutes later, the documents say. He then walks back out of the apartment carrying cleaning supplies, including bleach.
According to the affidavit, the camera never again captured Maleah leaving the apartment.
Police refer to Vence as Maleah’s stepfather. A spokesman for the mother’s family told CNN the two were engaged but that has ended. Police previously had spelled his first name as “Darion.”
His bail is set at $999,999, jail records show.
Tampering with a human corpse is a second-degree felony in Texas. If convicted, he faces between two to 20 years in prison.
He’s scheduled to appear in court Monday.