HOUSTON — Texas Equusearch confirmed Thursday the car Maleah Davis was riding in moments before her alleged kidnapping has been found. The search for the missing 4-year-old resumed that morning after it was halted earlier in the week due to severe weather passing through the Houston area.
It's been almost a week since Maleah was allegedly taken by three men. Her step-father, Derion Vence, claims he was attacked while checking his silver 2011 Nissan Altima with paper tags along the roadside in northeast Harris County on May 3.
Hopefully, finding the car will bring investigators one step closer to finding Maleah.
“We’re still hoping for the best. It’s possible, but we want to just help the families out and we’re just trying for the best. I hope she’s out there somewhere but we know where she’s not right now,” Texas Equusearch Search Coordinator Jack Boggess said.
Anyone with information regarding this missing child case should call HPD investigators at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stopper of Houston at 713-222-TIPS (8477).
The Houston Police Department tweeted Tuesday customarily detectives don't identify persons of interest or suspects unless charges are filed. However, investigators with the Sugar Land Police Department who were first to respond to the case at Methodist Hospital, say there are possible holes in the step-father's claim.
An SLPD spokesperson said Vence’s story has changed several times and statements he made didn’t add up. Once they realized the crime he reported had happened in Houston, they called HPD in.
The search for Maleah begins
On Monday, volunteers began a thorough search of the area around Greens Road and Highway 59, where Vence told investigators the kidnapping took place.
Tim Miller, the founder of Texas Equusearch, has been helping people search for their missing loved ones for years and says cases involving children are especially tough.
“Of course, we believe in miracles and lets hope a miracle happens in this," Miller said. "Right now, it doesn’t look good, especially with the medical condition and some other things going on so, we got a little baby, these are tough.”
Maleah had been removed from home after physical abuse allegations
As for Maleah’s life at home before her disappearance, we now know that in August of 2018, Maleah and her brothers were placed with a relative following physical abuse allegations stemming from a head injury she had.
A judge ordered them to return home in February and called for CPS to check in with the family at least once a month.
The young girl has had several brain surgeries and Sgt. Holbrook with HPD says the latest surgery that happened just a couple of months ago was to help an injury heal. He also said the girl needed a lot of care and had been sick prior to her disappearance.
Step-father claims he was knocked unconscious during kidnapping
Vence told investigators he was on his way to IAH airport to pickup the children's mother around 9 p.m. Friday when he heard a popping noise and pulled over to check the tires. Maleah and Vence's toddler son were sitting in the backseat.
The father said a blue 2010 model Chevrolet pickup truck with a crew cab pulled up behind the family on the side of the road.
"[The vehicle] pulls up behind him; two Hispanic males get out— one of them makes a comment, saying Maleah looks very nice, very sweet. The other male hits Darion in the head. Darion loses consciousness," Sgt. Mark Holbrook said.
From there, the father claims he woke up in the back of their truck at some point. He reportedly told police he was in and out of consciousness until he came to around 6 p.m. Saturday near Highway 6 in Sugar Land. His son was still with him, but Maleah was gone.
Vence said he walked along the side of the road and tried to get help, but no one stopped. He ended up at Methodist Hospital in Sugar Land sometime between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday. That's when he reported Maleah missing. An Amber Alert was issued Sunday morning.
Later in the investigation, police found Sugar Land traffic camera footage taken around 2:45 p.m. May 4 of Vence's vehicle.
Investigators said both Vence and his son were treated for their injuries before being released.
Police have spoken with Maleah's biological father, who is cooperating with the investigation.
“I’d like to know if anyone has seen these people," Holbrook said. "I would love to know more about that. I’d love to know where this vehicle is because somebody drove it. Somebody’s got it and that vehicle could very well have a lot of evidence in it that I want."