“It might be Maleah but we can’t be certain,” Houston Police Cmdr. Michael Skillern told reporters Friday.
The remains will be processed by Arkansas State Police before they are sent to the medical examiner in Harris County, Texas, Skillern said.
Local authorities began searching the area Friday after Houston police alerted them that evidence linked to missing 4-year-old girl’s case could be there.
Houston police detectives along with a search and rescue team headed to Arkansas Friday after the man who had been watching Maleah allegedly confessed to dumping her body there.
Tim Miller, the director of Texas EquuSearch, said the search and rescue organization is chartering a private plane, and Houston police tweeted that homicide detectives also were in route.
Earlier on Friday, suspect Derion Vence allegedly confessed that he dumped her body in Arkansas, according to an activist who spoke with him in jail.
“He said he pulled over in Arkansas, got out of the car, walked to the side of the road, and dumped the body off the road,” said Quanell, who used to represent the girl’s mother.
Vence, 26, has been charged with tampering with evidence in connection with the case. He was engaged to Brittany Bowens, Maleah’s mother, and was taking care of Maleah and his son when she went missing on May 4.
Vence is currently in custody. If convicted of tampering, he faces between two and 20 years in prison. Authorities have not yet said whether Maleah is believed to be alive.
Vence told police that Maleah was abducted
Vence told investigators last week he had Maleah and his toddler son in the car as he was driving to the airport to pick up Maleah’s mother on May 4. At some point, he told police, he heard a popping noise and went to check on it.
When he stopped, Vence said a blue pickup truck pulled up behind him and two Hispanic men got out. One hit him and knocked him out for nearly 24 hours. He told investigators when he woke up a day later, his son was there but Maleah was gone.
He then walked to a nearby hospital where he received treatment for injuries he said he sustained in the alleged abduction, and reported Maleah missing, police said.
But detectives have collected evidence that contradict his account, according to court documents.
Video footage of him shows that he was dropped off at the hospital he said he walked to, and blood from his car matches DNA from Maleah’s toothbrush.
Investigators also saw surveillance video captured from the porch of an apartment next door to Vence’s, the affidavit said.
In that footage, Vence is seen on May 3 leaving the apartment with a large blue laundry basket with a black trash bag inside.
Vence returned a few minutes later and then walks back out of the apartment carrying cleaning supplies, including bleach, according to the documents.
According to the affidavit, the footage never captured Maleah leaving the apartment.