Little Maleah Davis was last seen alive in late April. The 4-year-old girl vanished after being pictured on surveillance footage entering her Houston apartment with her mother’s ex-fiance, Derion Vence, who police said told them three men abducted the child several days later.
But Vence’s alleged story didn’t add up, according to police, who have since arrested him in connection with Maleah’s disappearance.
Her remains were found on May 31, but Vence denies killing her.
Below is a timeline of the case so far:
Tuesday, April 30
Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, said she left town for father’s funeral in Massachusetts, leaving her daughter and the young son she shares with Vence in his care.
Saturday, May 4
Vence and his son with Bowens arrived at Houston Methodist Hospital between 10 and 11 p.m., where Vence apparently told authorities he had been attacked and Maleah had been abducted.
Investigators said Vence told them he was on his way to pick up Bowens at George Bush Intercontinental Airport when he pulled over at the side of the road to investigate a popping noise he thought was coming from his tire about 9 p.m. Friday, Houston Police Sgt. Mark Holbrook said.
It was while he was investigating the noise that a blue crew cab Chevy truck pulled up behind Vence, he said. Three men got out of the truck and approached Vence while his son and Maleah were still in the car.
“One of them makes a comment saying, ‘Maleah looks very nice, looks very sweet,’” Holbrook later said Vence told police. “The other male hits Derion in the head.”
Cops said Vence told them he was knocked unconscious. He said he briefly woke at one point and realized he was in the back of the truck with the three men and the children before passing out again, Holbrook said.
Vence was otherwise unable to recall where he was and what happened until about 6 p.m. Saturday, when he said the men left him and his son near Highway 6 in Sugar Land and took off with Maleah, police said.
Vence said he wandered along the highway with his son for four hours looking for help, but no one stopped for him, and he ultimately walked to the hospital. His son was in good health, officials said.
Police said Vence told them his car was stolen during the alleged incident.
When Vence failed to show up at the airport to collect Bowens, she called her own mother to pick her up, according to KCCI-TV. It was not immediately clear why Bowens did not contact authorities after returning to Houston.
Sunday, May 5
An Amber Alert was issued for Maleah, who authorities said had undergone multiple brain surgeries, including one in late March, and was in need of medical care.
Police also issued a press release with information about Maleah’s disappearance. They held a press conference, in which Holbrook laid out the timeline as police knew it.
“I realize there’s a lot of blanks in that story, but we’re hoping that the public fills in the blanks,” Holbrook said.
A photo taken of Vence at the hospital showing him with cuts and bruises to his forehead was released to the public.
Officials also released video from traffic cameras showing Vence’s vehicle, a 2011 Nissan Altima, in Sugar Land about 3 p.m. Saturday. It had recently been purchased and had temporary tags with the license plate 3092G9.
Maleah’s loved ones spent the day handing out flyers with Maleah’s photo at Oyster Creek Park in Sugar Land, KHOU-TV reported.
Monday, May 6
Volunteers with Texas Equusearch joined the search for Maleah that morning. They began their search on foot and ATV near the area Vence said he had car trouble.
"We're hoping for the best, but expecting the worst," Eqqusearch founder Tim Miller told KHOU.
Others continued to hand out flyers about the case, including Bowens and her mother, Maleah’s grandmother, Brenda Bowens.
“I just want to find Maleah,” Brittany, Maleah's mom, tearfully said. “I love her so much. I love her so much. If there’s anybody that can help me, please, please, I just want to find my baby.”
Tuesday, May 7
Search efforts shifted to near the family’s apartment complex as Miller said they had covered the area where Vence claimed the kidnapping occurred.
That day, a spokesman for Sugar Land police said Vence’s story had changed since he first spoke to investigators.
“His story did not add up," Sugar Land Police spokesman Doug Adolph told CNN. Search efforts were then suspended due to severe weather in the area. They remained halted through Wednesday.
Wednesday, May 8
A court order banned Brittany and Vence from seeing Maleah’s other siblings. Maleah’s younger half-brother was sent to his paternal grandmother, while her older brother was put into the custody of his paternal aunt.
The order was reportedly the result of separate motions by Brittany’s own mother, Brenda, and the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Thursday, May 9
The owner of the day care Maleah attended said the little girl hadn’t been in since April 26. She told KHOU-TV Vence and Brittany’s son had been there May 3, and that Vence picked him up, but Maleah was not with him.
Texas Equusearch resumed its efforts that day, braving wet and muddy conditions to look for Maleah.
That morning, they found Vence’s car in a strip mall parking lot near Highway 6 and Riverstone Boulevard.
Police searched the vehicle and later said they found a laundry basket and gas can in its trunk. Brittany also headed to the scene where the car was discovered. There, she was consoled by detectives as she cried about her daughter.
That day, it was revealed that Maleah last year was taken into custody by Child Protective Services after she was rushed to the hospital with a seizure and a head injury.
The little girl was only taken to the hospital after Brenda arrived home from work and urged she be seen by a doctor, the report said. At the time, Maleah was living with Brenda as well as her mother and Vence.
Doctors said Maleah’s mother and Vence claimed she fell off a chair, but the injury did not align with that explanation, according to KHOU-TV. She was taken into temporary custody by CPS, but a judge returned her to her mother and Vence several months later.
No one was charged in connection with the incident.
Friday, May 10
A spokesman for Brittany revealed she and Vence had broken up, telling reporters the couple parted on bad terms because Brittany suspected Vence of abusing Maleah.
“She told him she was giving back his ring and that she was not going to marry him,” Quanell X said. “I believe that caused him to snap in anger. There is reason to believe, based on what I know now, there’s issues of him possibly molesting young Maleah.”
Brittany did not report any concerns of alleged abuse to police, Quanell X said.
Quanell X said Brittany previously threatened to break up with Vence because she found explicit pictures he sent to another man. According to Quanell X, Vence was seen on a neighbor’s security camera carrying with a garbage bag and bottles of bleach the day he said he was attacked and Maleah was abducted.
Saturday, May 11
Vence was arrested on charges of evidence tampering, officials said.
He was being held on charges of tampering with a human corpse, according to Harris County jail records.
Police said they found evidence of blood in the apartment that they linked to Maleah. Authorities also said Vence was seen carrying a blue laundry basket from the apartment.
His bond was set at $1 million, but it was later reduced on May 13 to $45,000.
Sunday, May 12
Court documents released noted chemicals sprayed at Vence’s home picked up traces of blood in the hallway and bathroom. DNA samples taken from Maleah’s toothbrush were consistent with the samples found from the blood discovered throughout the apartment, authorities said.
Monday, May 13
Vence’s court appearance was rescheduled and potentially delayed until July. Brittany was present for Vence’s scheduled appearance, and faced insults and accusations from protesters who apparently held her partly responsible for Maleah’s disappearance.
Tears streamed down Brittany’s face as protesters chanted “Where is Maleah?” while her spokesman, Quanell X, addressed the media and called on Vence to confess to hurting the 4-year-old child.
“The main thing right now that all of us want to know is, what did he do with Maleah?” Quanell X said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Brittany has not been charged in connection to her daughter’s disappearance, but she was lambasted outside court and accused of being as guilty as Vence.
“Why isn’t she locked up?” one heckler reportedly yelled.
“She let it happen,” another said.
That same day, an image believed to be the last taken of Maleah before she disappeared was released to the public.
In the photo, provided to KHOU-TV by a law enforcement source, Maleah can be seen walking behind Vence toward their apartment complex April 30. She was never seen exiting the apartment, officials said.
Wednesday, May 15
The search for missing 4-year-old Maleah was again suspended Wednesday, as officials pressed for more tips on specific areas to look for the Texas girl.
Most recently, volunteers with Texas EquuSearch had been combing places along Vence's onetime mail route in Rosharon. He had once allegedly described the route as an ideal place to hide a corpse, according to Miller of Texas EquuSearch.
"He actually told his mother-in-law a year ago, 'If I ever murder someone, I can dump a body in Rosharon that will never be found,'" Miller told CNN.
Miller echoed that remark while speaking to KTRK and added that he confirmed the comment with Vence's ex-fiancee and Maleah's mother, Brittany.
"I talked to Brittany on the phone to see if that was correct or just a rumor, and she said, 'Yeah, that was correct,'" Miller said.
But the search has thus far proved futile without more details, Texas EquuSearch said Wednesday.
"It is frustrating. We've been here before with other cases," Miller told the Houston Chronicle. "We're hoping some new information comes in."
Thursday, May 16
With each passing day that Maleah remains missing, the adults who know the little girl well struggle to explain to her young friends what could have happened to lead to her disappearance.
“They ask me, ‘Do you think Maleah is going to come back?’ And I don’t know how to answer that,” Carolyn Emerson said to KPRC-TV of Maleah’s classmates at Attitude Respect N’ Manners school in Houston.
Emerson herself has struggled to process what could have led to the 4-year-old’s vanishing, let alone be able to break it down in a way that’s digestible for other children. Emerson said she last saw Maleah, whom she described as shy and smart, about a week before an Amber Alert was issued on May 5.
“It hurt me so hard, so bad. At home, I couldn’t sleep, and it’s still like that,” Emerson said. “I just want them to find her.”
Friday, May 17
Brittany sat down to discuss her daughter's disappearance, telling the station she thought she could trust her ex-fiance to care for her daughter and the son they share while she flew to Massachusetts for her father's funeral.
"I didn't know that after burying my father, I'd have to come home to this," Brittany said.
Though Brittany said she wanted to believe Vence's account of what happened, his story of being attacked by men who took her daughter made less sense as time went on, and after reporting Maleah missing, he began ignoring Brittany's calls and texts and denied her an in-person meeting, her spokesman, Quanell X, said.
It’s a lack of answers that has devastated Brittany, who relayed a list of questions she’s replayed over and over since Maleah vanished.
"Where is she? How did she feel before?” Brittany said. “What was she thinking about? Will I ever find out what really happened to her?"
Though she has been lambasted by protesters who believe she is as responsible as Vence allegedly is for Maleah's disappearance, Brittany maintained her innocence.
"People are entitled to however they think ... I know my truth," she said. "And I love my daughter unconditionally ... I don't have it in my heart to do anything like that."
Monday, May 20
Vence's father, Joe Vence Sr., spoke out against Brittany, saying she should be looked at by investigators instead of his son.
“Yeah, I believe my son is innocent and I believe his story," Joe told Melvin Cedeno of the IckedMel YouTube Channel, saying that while his son’s claims were hard to believe, he knows he is not guilty.
Vence handled the majority of drop-offs and pick-ups to and from day care for Maleah and her two brothers and raised the 4-year-old girl as if she were his own, his father said.
"Derion had those kids most of the time, he's the one who took care of the kids," he said. "I know he didn't do anything to her because he loves her. He's been taking care of her since she was, like, 1 year old."
Saying that his son has been framed by Maleah’s mother, Vence's father shot down her claims that he sexually and physically abused the little girl.
“Why would you leave your child at home with him if he's doing all of these things?" Vence's father said.
He said the laundry bag his son was seen on surveillance footage carrying out of the home the same day Vence claimed to have been attacked was not a sign that something sinister happened to Maleah.
“He was actually doing laundry,” Joe said, remaining steadfast in his belief that his son did not hurt Maleah. “He’s not the type of person that’s going to harm a child at all.”
Thursday, May 23
Texas police believe it's unlikely Maleah will be found alive.
"The evidence shows that we believe she has been murdered. Let's bring this baby home, proper burial," Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo told reporters. "Without finding that body, there is a hole left out there."
He went on to say that Vence is not being cooperative with police and accused him of lying.
"You could drive a big rig right through the tales this guy has been telling," Acevedo said. "I can sit here and say we're going to find her alive, but I'd be lying to you."
Tuesday, May 28
Brittany's spokesman, community activist Quanell X, said he is no longer representing her because he believes “she knows what happened” to her missing daughter, according to a report.
Quanell X claimed Brittany’s behavior almost immediately raised red flags, but said he remained by her side for as long as he did to get information he feared police searching for the 4-year-old girl could not, he said to KHOU-TV.
“[Brittany] 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.”
Quanell X declined to provide specifics to KHOU, but said Brittany’s behavior in front of and away from the cameras differed greatly.
“There was not a lot of tears,” he said of Brittany when they were alone. “She was always calm, fluid, clear. Now, whenever there was a public thing, she would always break down.”
Authorities have spoken with Quanell X about his alleged concerns and are vetting the information he provided, law enforcement sources told KHOU-TV.
Brittany 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, KRIV reported.
Friday, May 31
Information from Quanell X pointed investigators in a new direction as they continued to search for Maleah.
Quanell X said Friday that Vence told him Maleah died in an "accident," and he disposed of her body in Arkansas.
"He said that he pulled over in Arkansas, got out of the car, walked off the side of the road and dumped her body off the side of the road," Quanell X told reporters.
Police followed up on the claim and scoured a wooded area above the Texas-Arkansas border Friday. While officers were searching, they were alerted that a road cleanup crew had found a black garbage bag with a foul odor, police said. The bag contained human remains, which were sent to be tested and identified.
"Do we believe that it's possibly her? Yes. But can we confirm it right now? No," said Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Troy Finner.
Monday, June 3
Remains found in a garbage bag were positively identified as those of Maleah by the Harris County Medical Examiner.
Her cause and manner of death are pending.
When KTRK spoke to Brittany Monday after her daughter's remains were identified, she said it wasn't "fair."
"I just don't understand this," Brittany said. "It's not fair, because she didn't deserve that."
Tuesday, June 4
Vence insisted in a jailhouse interview that he "loved" the Maleah and would never have done anything to hurt her.
"I ain't no killer, bro," Vence 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.
Sunday, June 9
Hundreds in Houston donned pink, Maleah's favorite color, for a memorial march in her honor. The walk, which began at 7:54 a.m., the last time she was seen alive, went from City Hall through downtown Houston.
"We need justice for Maleah," Theresa Warrak told KTRK at Sunday's walk. "If they don't give Maleah the right justice, you will see a crowd 10 times as big as you saw today. All of us will be on the street protesting."
Wednesday, June 12
Loved ones preparing to say goodbye to Maleah later this month are also contending with another hardship, as an online petition calling for the slain little girl’s mother to be charged in her death appears to be gaining traction.
A private funeral service for 4-year-old Maleah will be held June 22 at an undisclosed location, according to her obituary.
“She touched the lives of many; our shining, beautiful little girl, the light of our lives and the star of our hearts who leaves us smiling through our tears,” her memorial read. “She was happiness personified.”
The consummate girly-girl who loved to sing and dance, Maleah was also happiest spending time with her siblings, the obituary said.
“She never missed a moment to pose in front of the camera with them in action,” it read.
Maleah is survived by her two brothers, as well as her father, Craig Davis, and her mother, Brittany, who has come under fire for her actions in the wake of her daughter’s disappearance and the subsequent arrest of her ex-fiance.
“From DAY ONE Brittany Bowens has been faking her emotions over this case as well as lying to police officers about details. She knew what happened to her daughter,” a petition entitled “Charge Brittany Bowens in Maleah Davis Death” read. “Brittany should be charged with the same crime as Darion[sic] for the death of 4 year old Maleah!”
By Wednesday, the petition had more than 37,800 signatures.
Thursday, June 20
Maleah's final resting place has been made to encapsulate the cheerful whimsy the 4-year-old delighted in, as the little girl will be buried in a casket adorned with artwork from “My Little Pony.”
The custom design is the work of Trey Ganem’s SoulShine Industries, which received a flood of requests from strangers familiar with Maleah’s tragic death to create a casket representative of her spirit and innocence.
“We probably got 200 people asking us to help this family out,” Ganem told InsideEdition.com.
After reading Maleah’s story, Ganem and his wife understood why.
“My passion purpose is to help others, and I couldn’t fathom [her death],” Ganem said. “I have kids, they’re grown now, and my heart hurt; I just wanted to do what I could to help the family.”
Ganem’s team set out to make Maleah’s casket as beautiful as possible and spent about 12 hours working on the design and execution.
Photos of the casket showed it was covered by artwork from the cartoon. The top of the casket shows a smiling Maleah riding atop Rainbow Dash among clouds, while a rainbow shines above. Its sides are adorned with other characters from the show, and Maleah’s full name — Maleah Lynn Davis — is displayed in bright letters. Inside, the casket is upholstered with rainbow fabric and more images from the show.
“We made it look like she was there with them,” Ganem said.
The gravity of the work was not lost on Ganem’s team, all of whom felt personally invested in seeing that the finished casket succeed in representing Maleah’s spirit.
“It was very emotional,” Ganem said. “They were crying up there, working on stuff. You could hear it in everybody’s voice; this was just something super, super special. This one really grabbed us.”
Two members of Ganem’s team delivered the casket to Maleah’s father, Craig, who went on to post an image of it on Instagram.
“They loved it,” Ganem said of Maleah’s family. “They were giving hugs and were just so appreciative, just so happy they were going to be able to lay this beautiful baby to rest in this … it was an honor.”
Saturday, June 22
Hundreds of people gathered in a Houston church to mourn Maleah.
Flowers, teddy bears and privates messages were collected before the service, according to ABC 13. Craig said guests work pink bracelets with his daughter's name. Her mother, Brittany Bowens, released a single white dove at the burial ceremony, where she was laid to rest in a "My Little Pony" casket.
A eulogy message was displayed the church in honor of Maleah. Titled "Remember Me With Love," the letter was written in her voice.
"I enjoyed my life and I want to thank everyone who made me laugh, smile and love on you," the message read.
Anyone with information regarding Maleah’s disappearance and/or death is asked to contact Houston Police at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers Houston at 713-222-TIPS.