The search for 4-year-old Maleah Davis took a devastating turn Friday afternoon, with Houston-based activist Quanell X telling authorities that Derion Vence, the child’s stepfather, allegedly confessed to him that Maleah died and he dumped her body on the side of the road in Arkansas, KHOU reports.
Maleah has 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.
As ESSENCE previously reported, it quickly became clear that Vence’s claims didn’t add up. The Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force took Vence into custody 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.
X, who is leader of the New Black Panther Nation, said he spoke with Vence in a downtown Houston jail Friday morning, where “Vence allegedly confessed that after the child died he dumped her body along Interstate 30 near Hope, Arkansas,” KHOU reports.
“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 added. “He says it was an accident, and he confessed to me where he dumped her body.”
Friday afternoon, 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. Shortly after 5 pm on Friday, authorities in southwest Arkansas confirmed that remains of a child were found in the black garbage bag.
Quanell X, who previously acted as a spokesperson for Maleah’s mother Brittany Bowens, distanced himself from her after it became clear to him that she allegedly knew more about her daughter’s disappearance than she had led him—and the public—to believe.
“I don’t think she knows where Maleah is, but I do believe she knows what happened,” X told KHOU 11 News Anchor Len Cannon.
“She said to me when we were riding in my car what she believed really happened to Maleah,” X continued. “At that point, I knew what needed to be done. So I arranged to meet as quickly as I could with investigators at the highest level of this case and shared everything that we had learned and discovered.”
Since X’s public statements about the confession, Vence’s attorney has asked that a judge prohibit all jail visits from the community activist.