"I ain't no killer, bro," Vence, the ex-fiance of Maleah's mother, Brittany Bowens, told KTRK in an exclusive interview from behind bars. "I loved Maleah so much. I did for her more than her own parents. I never had a biological daughter. I would never do anything to hurt her. That's not me.
"Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you I'm not that type of dude and I was good with the kids," he added through tears.
Vence is charged with tampering with evidence but could possibly face more charges after Maleah's body was found on Friday, a month after she was last seen alive. He has not entered a plea.
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, authorities said.
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 Vence. 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.
On Monday, they were positively identified as those of Maleah.
Asked about Maleah's death, Vence said "nothing bad" happened to the little girl but did not elaborate further.
Last week, Quanell X, who previously represented Maleah's mother, Bowens, also suggested that she 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.
When KTRK spoke to her Monday after her daughter's remains were identified, Bowens said it wasn't "fair."
"I just don't understand this," Bowens said. "It's not fair, because she didn't deserve that."