As ESSENCE previously reported, the search for Maleah took a devastating turn last Friday afternoon when Houston-based activist Quanell X told authorities that Derion Vence, the child’s stepfather, allegedly confessed to him that Maleah died. He also added that he dumped her body on the side of the road in Arkansas.
Later that day, Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton said a black bag with a “foul odor” had been located approximately 18 miles outside of Hope but no further comment would be made until the contents of the bag had undergone forensic testing. Authorities later confirmed that the bag contained the remains of a child.
Maleah had been missing for over a month. Vence initially told authorities that after experiencing car trouble enroute to picking up Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, from the airport, he was attacked by three men and knocked unconscious—and that when he woke up, Maleah was gone.
We had a long conversation,” X told reporters. “We spoke about details surrounding Maleah’s disappearance. We spoke about his relationship with Brittany.”
“One thing he wanted to make clear to me was, what happened to Maleah was an accident,” X said of his conversation with Vence at a downtown Houston jail. “He says it was an accident, and he confessed to me where he dumped her body.”
Since X’s public statements about the confession, Vence’s attorney has asked that a judge prohibit all jail visits from the community activist.
The Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force arrested Vence on May 13 at a relative’s home in Sugar Land for “tampering with evidence, namely a corpse,” and his bail was set at $1 million. He remains in custody.
In a statement issued Monday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said the department is “heartened by the fact this sweet child can now receive the proper burial she deserved…[and that] the Houston Police Department will continue to work diligently with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and other partners to ensure the person(s) responsible for her death, and the attempted cover-up of her death, are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”