Derion Vence, 26, was arrested Saturday at a relative’s house about 20 miles southwest of Houston. He was booked into the Harris County jail on suspicion of tampering with evidence — a human corpse, police said.
Authorities did not provide any information on whether Maleah is alive.
His bail is set at $999,999, jail records show.
Vence’s story started unraveling after he reported Maleah missing, police said.
He told investigators that he was driving to the airport on May 4 and pulled over to check whether a sound coming from his Nissan Altima was a flat tire.
When he stopped, he said, several men in a pickup truck pulled up, knocked him out and abducted him, Maleah and his toddler son. When he woke up a day later, the boy was there but Maleah was gone, he said, according to Houston police.
“Due to injuries he said he suffered during the abduction, he reportedly lost consciousness for about 24 hours, regaining it on Sunday (May 5). He said he found himself on foot in Sugar Land and walked to Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital for treatment. He then reported Maleah missing,” Houston Police said in a statement.
But despite saying his car was stolen during the abduction, surveillance footage showed someone dropping him off at the hospital on May 5 using that same vehicle, police said.
Police recovered the car Thursday in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Missouri City, Texas.
An employee of a taxi cab company spotted the car and called police, said detective Ken Fregia. The car was about 5 miles away from where Vence said he woke up.
A laundry basket was found in the trunk along with a gas can, and police are urging anyone who sold him the gas can to contact authorities.
Police refer to Vence as Maleah’s stepfather. A spokesman for her mother’s family told CNN the two were engaged but that has since ended.
Blood evidence allegedly found
In addition to the conflicting stories about his car, blood evidence obtained from Vence’s apartment has been linked to Maleah, police said.
The suspect was also seen carrying a full laundry basket from the apartment, police said, without providing details.
Maleah’s father said he is heartbroken over his daughter.
“I haven’t spoken to the public because I can’t talk about my daughter. I can’t control my emotions,” Craig Davis told CNN affiliate KTRK last week. “I can’t predict myself. I break down and I cry.”
CNN reached out to Vence several times last week but did not hear back. It’s unclear if he has a lawyer.
Tampering with a human corpse is a second-degree felony in Texas. If convicted, he faces between two to 20 years in prison.
He’s scheduled to appear in court Monday.