The stepfather of a missing 4-year-old girl is now a person of interest in her disappearance, Houston Police announced Tuesday.
Darion Vence initially told police that his stepdaughter, Maleah Davis, was kidnapped after three Hispanic men knocked him unconscious during an alleged carjacking Friday. Vence, his 2-year-old son and Davis were headed to the airport to retrieve Davis’ mom when the alleged incident unfolded.
When he finally awoke, Vence claims Davis and the family’s car were gone.
Now, authorities say things aren’t quite adding up.
As reported by Click2Houston, Sugar Land Police interviewed Vence at a nearby hospital on Saturday after he showed up with flesh wounds to his forehead. Sugar Land detectives handed over footage of the questioning to the Houston Police Department, which is now handling the case.
Sugar Land police pointed out that Vence’s story had become inconsistent, however, and that he had changed elements — including how he got to the hospital — several times during the interview.
Crews are still in a desperate search to find the missing girl, who requires “a lot of care” after undergoing head surgery to treat a cracked skull she allegedly suffered after a fall at home. She has had multiple surgeries to treat the injury, according to her mother Brittany Bowens.
“She came around that couch, she had a deep gash in her head,” Bowens told CNN of the incident last July when Maleah, 4, fell while eating at the dinner table by herself. “It freaked me out.”
The mother said she rushed her daughter to a hospital in West Houston for treatment. Five days later, Maleah suffered severe seizure and doctors performed a CT scan to find that she had bleeding on her brain.
“At that point it was a life or death situation,” Bowens said.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed to the Houston Chronicle earlier this week that Davis and her brothers, then 5 and 1, were removed from the home in August and placed with a relative after allegations of “possible physical abuse.”
The children were placed back at home in February, with child protective services making visits there at least once a month.
So far, volunteer search teams say there’s no evidence that indicates Davis was abducted near the Houston freeway where Vence claimed the carjacking occurred. The man told police he regained consciousnesses and found himself on the side of the road with his toddler son, but not Maleah.
“Did we possibly miss something?” Tim Miller, the founder of Texas EquuSearch, asked Click2Houston. “Possibly so, but I really don’t think so. My heart’s telling me no. Where do we need to go from here? Hopefully, an investigation is gonna lead us that direction.”
According to police, the family’s silver Nissan Altima was last seen on a traffic camera around 3 p.m Saturday. Vence didn’t report his stepdaughter missing until almost 11 p.m., after he arrived at the hospital.
Maleah’s mother, who got a relative to pick her up from the airport, also didn’t report her family missing until the Saturday morning after they failed to show up Friday at the airport.
An Amber alert was issued for young Maleah on Sunday.
“I’m not putting the blame on anybody,” Craig Davis, Maleah’s biological father, told Houston’s ABC13 in his first interview since his daughter’s disappearance. “I just need the questions that aren’t answered to be answered. There are so many unanswered questions. It’s not for the public to answer to them for me. It’s not for the police to answer them for me. It’s not for the news to answer them for me. It’s for Darion to answer for me.”
Davis said he’s avoided talking to the public because it’s just too overwhelming.
“I can’t talk about my daughter,” he added. “I can’t control my emotions. I break down and I cry.”
Bowens, Maleah’s mother, said she’s equally distraught over the disappearance of her daughter, telling ABC13 that “it doesn’t seem real.”
“My spirit is so broken,” she said. “I feel so lost. I can’t focus.”
Watch more in the video below.