HOUSTON—Trained dogs detected the scent of human decomposition in the vehicle of a man arrested in connection with the disappearance of a 4-year-old Texas girl, according to a prosecutor.
The investigation began after Derion Vence told police that men in a truck on May 4 had abducted him, Maleah Davis and his 2-year-old son a day earlier, but had freed him and the boy. Vence told investigators he was left in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land and walked to a hospital, where he reported the girl's abduction.
Sugar Land police, who initially interviewed him, said his story kept changing and didn't add up.
Dogs trained to find cadavers reacted to the trunk of the car, Pat Stayton, a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said at Vence's probable-cause court hearing.
Surveillance video from a neighbor showed 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.
Vence, who had lived with Maleah and her mother, reported that his silver Nissan Altima was taken in the abduction, but surveillance video showed that vehicle was used to drop Vence off at the hospital. Police found the car May 9.
In the silver Nissan, police found a laundry basket that looked like the one Vence took out of his apartment, Stayton said.
"Both of the dogs reacted to the trunk of the silver Nissan that the defendant had driven and that the blue laundry basket was recovered from, indicating that the dogs were responding to the scent of human decomposition in the vehicle," Stayton said.
Investigators also found blood at the apartment, both in the hallway leading to the bathroom and on surfaces inside the bathroom, Stayton said.
Vence, 26, was jailed May 11 on a charge of tampering evidence, specifically a human corpse. Bond was set at $1 million.
Houston police at the time said investigators had not found Maleah and the investigation was continuing. Prosecutors said in court documents that Vence could face additional charges, including murder.
At his hearing, Vence said he planned to hire a defense attorney.
Rodney Brown, an attorney appointed to represent Vence only for the May 11 hearing, asked a magistrate judge to set bond at $5,000, saying Vence was a low flight risk and had lived in Houston most of his life.
Stayton argued that Vence was a flight risk and there was "evidence of deception on the part of the defendant with regard to information he gave to police."
Police have described Vence as Maleah's stepfather, but Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, said through a spokesman that Vence is her former fiance. Quanell X, a local civil rights activist, spoke to reporters on Bowens' behalf on Friday alleged Vence had abused Maleah.
Child Protective Services removed Maleah and her brothers from the home Vence and Bowens shared in August after the girl suffered a head wound, but the children were returned in February, according to an agency spokeswoman.