A month has passed since Maleah was last spotted on surveillance footage with her mother's ex-fiance, Derion Vence, on April 30. She’d been left in his care while her mother, Brittany Bowens, attended her father’s funeral.
Vence was seen taking Maleah into their Houston home, but days later, he left the apartment with his son and a laundry basket with a trash bag in it, according to authorities.
Vence told police Maleah was kidnapped by three men who knocked him unconscious while stealing his car, but his story later fell apart, according to authorities.
Texas authorities had long believed the girl was dead, but were unable to locate her remains until a new tip last week from community activist Quanell X, who told investigators of a conversation he had with Bowens' ex-fiance. He said Vence told him Maleah's death was an "accident" and he disposed of her body in Arkansas.
As officers scoured a wooded area in southwest Arkansas Friday, they were alerted that a road cleanup crew had found a trash bag with "a foul odor," Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton said. Human remains were found inside and they were sent to be tested.
The Harris County Medical Examiner announced Monday it had positively identified the remains as Maleah's. Her cause and manner of death are pending.
Vence is charged with tampering with evidence, but will likely face new charges in light of the discovery of Maleah's body. He has not entered a plea.
Last week, Quanell X, who previously represented Maleah's mother, also suggested that Bowens may know more than she lets on about what happened to her little girl.
“[Bowens] said to me when we [were] riding in my car what she believed really happened to Maleah,” he said. “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.”
Bowens has not been charged with any crime and has not been named a suspect in connection to her daughter’s vanishing. She has spoken out against Quanell X and said he is misrepresenting the family’s past.
When she was previously lambasted by protesters who believe she is as responsible as Vence allegedly is for Maleah's disappearance, Bowens maintained her innocence.