Authorities and investigators in Texas have renewed vigor in their search for four-year-old Maleah in Texas, following allegations the prime suspect knew of “a good place to dump a body.”
After chasing down multiple leads with search teams, Texas EquuSearch announced this week they would be suspending their search for Maleah Davis until they could refocus their investigation. Maleah has been missing since April.
Surveillance footage provided investigators with an insidious picture of the hours before and after Maleah’s disappearance. On the morning of April 30, 2019, a surveillance photo shows Maleah walking with her mother’s former fiancé, Derion Vence, through the backyard of their Houston apartment. Sources in the Houston Police Department told a local Houston paper it’s the last known image of Maleah before she disappeared.
An hour later, surveillance footage shows Vence returning to his vehicle, with no sign of Maleah. Surveillance footage from May 3rd shows Vence making several trips out of the apartment, carrying things like a trash bag in a laundry basket and a bottle of bleach.
Vence would later give a statement that on May 3rd, they left in the evening—Himself, Maleah, and Maleah’s young brother—to collect Maleah’s mother from the airport. They were en route when Vence claimed he pulled over to examine a damaged tire, and was ambushed by three men who knocked him unconscious and stole the Nissan Altima he was driving with Maleah inside.
Police finally located the vehicle in the parking lot of a nearby shopping mall. Vence was soon arrested for tampering with evidence after investigators found blood in his apartment that matched DNA taken from Maleah’s toothbrush. Scent dogs alerted on decomposing material found on some of the objects Vence carried out of the apartment on May 3rd. While the motive to cover up his actions remains unclear, there have been rumors it may have something to do with abuse allegations made against Maleah’s birth mother and father in August of 2018.
Now, in tandem with investigators, Equusearch will be searching an area along a mail route Vence used to work, after receiving intel that Vence allegedly once told his mother-in-law, “If I ever murder someone, I can dump a body in Rosharon that will never be found.” Vence remains in the Harris County Jail on a $45,000 bond while police continue to investigate discrepancies in his story with the help of the surveillance footage taken from the security cams.
Maleah has black hair and brown eyes, stands at about 3 feet tall and weighs approximately 30 to 40 pounds. If you have any information about her disappearance, call 713-308-3600.
For many families across North America, the holiday season has begun—a season for spending time with family and reflecting on the blessings in your life. For Hania Aguilar’s family however, this joyous time of year has already been marred by her disappearance. On November 5th, 2018, a man dressed in black with a yellow bandana abducted the 13-year-old while she was outside her home at the Rosewood Mobile Home Park in Lumberton, North Carolina
The incident has caused a fresh surge of panic in a town already pockmarked by cases of other missing women, with the Aguilar’s neighbors keeping their children on a much shorter leash. Parents with anxieties of their children becoming vulnerable to local predators have had their every fear validated by a man in black with terrible motives. Teresa Lauderback is one of these hypervigilant parents, “I’m on top of them at the bus stop every morning and make sure they get on the bus before I walk away.” The mayor of Lumberton, Bruce Davis, also commented on the heightened anxiety in his community, citing the multiple inquiries he’s received about the case, “Everybody is concerned and they’re on edge…They ask all the time, and I have to tell them the FBI does not talk to the mayor. In fact, the FBI doesn’t talk to anybody.”
Hania had gone outside that chilly morning to start her aunt’s green SUV when the man in black appeared and snatched her from her own front yard. In the weeks after Hania’s disappearance, local law enforcement and the FBI held press conferences where they implored the community to come forward with any information they might have about the Lumberton teen. Those press briefings slowed to a staccato rhythm that eventually went quiet. As citizen inquiries in the case remain steady, law enforcement has recently suspended all future press-conferences, barring significant developments in the case.
In an effort to kick up further leads, the FBI and law enforcement implored the local deer hunters of Robeson County to check their video devices for any sign of the SUV, a stolen Ford Expedition, used to abduct Hania. “We are at a critical phase in our investigation and need the public’s help,” the press release said. “If we do not reach everyone with video soon, that video could be lost, as many systems will purge the older footage automatically.” The SUV was eventually located off of Quincy Drive, approximately ten miles from Hania’s home. In addition to deer hunters, homeowners were also asked to check any home security systems with video in order to track the SUV’s movements. Police are seeking a man seen in one such surveillance video, who was walking in the area about an hour before Hania was abducted. He was seen walking on Lambeth Street, headed towards the mobile home park in the minutes leading up to Hania’s disappearance. The search for this possible witness has only grown more desperate, as the investigation took a bleak turn.
In the fourth week of the search for Hania, a body was found by law enforcement while searching for the missing teen. The body was discovered off of Wiregrass Road, approximately ten miles from Hania’s home. At that time, there were at least four investigative bodies searching: The FBI, Lumberton PD, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, and the SBI. A press release from the superintendent of Robeson County Schools read, “The body is believed to be Hania, but the identity has not yet been confirmed. This is an unfortunate end to an extensive search and we are committed to supporting all students and staff as they cope with the heartbreaking tragedy.” The superintendent also assured the district that they would be increasing all available resources to support the students and staff at Hania’s school, Lumberton Junior High School. Law enforcement have stated that the remains have been sent to a North Carolina state crime lab located in Raleigh for autopsy and identification.
Unfortunately, Hania’s disappearance is another in a series of disappearances and killings that have haunted Lumberton for almost two years. In 2016, an FBI report revealed that there were 393 violent crimes in Lumberton, more than there are days in the year. The FBI’s analysts determined that a single resident of Lumberton has a 1 in 55 chance of being raped, assaulted, or killed. On April 18th, 2017, Christina Bennett, 32, and Rhonda Jones, 36 were both found dead within 100 yards of each other. Bennett’s body was discovered in an abandoned house, and the body of Jones was recovered from a trash can just across the alley. Both bodies were in an advanced stage of composition when they were found. A few months later in June, the remains of missing woman Megan Oxendine were found in another abandoned house within a two-mile radius of Bennett and Jones. Other women, like Cynthia Jacobs, 41, and Abby Lynn Patterson, 20, have also gone missing from this neighborhood, but were never found. The disappearance of Hania Aguilar has reignited community suspicion that there is a singular apex predator in their midst, targeting women for motives unknown. Community member Robert Norris told the media, “The first thing that comes to mind is that she had to have been watched or someone knew her routine. There’s a lot of possibilities…but nobody really knows until she is found and everything can be investigated. You hear these stories on TV, like in California or New York, and never think it could be right in your own backyard. It makes you get a sense of security and awareness about you that you’ve never had before.”
The community gathered on Wednesday to support Hania’s family. Hania’s mother has appeared in media coverage throughout the search, often with her priest at her side, telling the cameras, “I don’t have words to describe how I feel.” Despite the fear and confusion surrounding her daughter’s disappearance, she is a rock as she delivers a message to the abductor, in Spanish, “Return my daughter. I need her. I am suffering for her. Her sisters are, too.” Further commenting on this investigation’s ‘tragic end,’ the superintendent of Robeson County Schools declared, “We are keeping Hania in our thoughts and will continue to pray for her family and each other as the investigation continues.”
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations. She regularly writes on missing person and investigation topics. For more information, please visit our website.