Missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis' mother believes her daughter is dead

Derion Vence, the boyfriend of Maleah's mom, was arrested Saturday in connection with the girl's disappearance and charged with tampering with evidence.

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By Janelle Griffith

The mother of Maleah Davis, a 4-year-old who was reported missing more than a week ago, said she does not believe the girl is alive but still hopes to locate her.

A spokesman for Brittany Bowens told NBC News on Tuesday that Maleah was being abused by Derion Vence, who was arrested Saturday in connection with her disappearance.

Bowens said through her spokesman, Quanell X, a local civil rights activist, that she believes Vence harmed the girl. She also said that Vence is her former fiance.

Maleah DavisHouston Police Department

Vence, 26, told Houston police earlier this month that Maleah was kidnapped by three men who released him and his 2-year-old son after abducting all three of them.

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Vence said he was driving to George Bush Intercontinental Airport to pick up Bowens, who was on a return flight from Massachusetts, when the alleged abduction took place, Houston police said. Vence reported that the silver Nissan Altima he was traveling in was taken in the abduction but surveillance video showed that the vehicle was used to drop him off later at a hospital, where he first reported Maleah missing, police said.

Derion Vence was arrested Saturday by Houston police in the disappearance of his stepdaughter Maleah Davis, 4.

Vence's story kept changing, police said.

He was charged with tampering with evidence, namely a human corpse, after the smell of decomposing human remains was detected in the trunk of a car he had driven, according to court documents.

Footage from a neighbor's house showed that before Vence left to pick up Maleah's mother from the airport, he was observed carrying a full laundry basket from the apartment that was later found in the trunk of the Nissan along with a gas can. Police also said they found blood in his apartment linked to Maleah.

Child Protective Services removed Maleah and her brothers from the home Vence and Bowens shared in August after the girl suffered a head wound, but the children were returned in February, according to an agency spokeswoman and Quanell X.

Vence was expected in court Monday morning, but his court appearance was rescheduled for July 10. A judge on Monday reduced his bail from $999,999 to $45,000, according to Harris County Jail records.

Quanell X was with Bowens in court Monday. As she exited the courthouse, Bowens was met by a crowd shouting "Justice for Maleah!"