HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston man told investigators that his 4-year-old step daughter was abducted by men in a pickup truck who beat him but then let him and his 2-year-old son go free, police said.
Police said Darion Vence reported his stepdaughter, Maleah Davis, missing on Saturday night, telling investigators that men abducted him and the two children Friday evening. He told police that after one of the men hit him, he was in and out of consciousness for almost 24 hours.
Authorities issued an Amber Alert on Sunday morning. Sgt. Mark Holbrook said at a news conference later Sunday that they were trying to figure out “what story is true, what really happened.”
“We don’t know. I just don’t know and I don’t want to speculate,” Holbrook said.
At the request of police, a local group on Monday searched an area near where Vence said the abduction happened.
Holbrook said Vence told authorities he was driving to George Bush Intercontinental Airport around 9 p.m. Friday to pick up the girl’s mother when he heard a popping sound that made him think his tire was flat. He veered to the side of the road to check it, then men in a pickup truck pulled up behind him, he said.
Vence told police that one of the men commented that Maleah looked “very nice” and “very sweet” and that another of the men hit him. He told police he briefly regained consciousness to find that he and the children were in the men’s truck.
Vence said when he came to around 6 p.m. Saturday he and the boy were no longer in the pickup but were near a highway, according to police. He said he then started walking to a hospital, arriving there around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., and reported the girl missing.
Asked why Vence didn’t call police sooner, Houston police department spokesman Kese Smith said he couldn’t comment on whether he had a cellphone with him in the hours before he arrived at the hospital. The department is investigating “all aspects” of this case, Smith said.
Holbrook said the vehicle Vence was driving is missing. He said a traffic camera showed it driving through an intersection in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land around 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I realize there’s a lot of blanks in that story, but we’re hoping the public can fill in the blanks,” Holbrook said.
According to police, the girl has undergone brain surgeries.
“She’s needed a lot of care and she was sick this week, too,” Holbrook said.
Maleah and her two brothers were removed from their home last August and placed with a relative following abuse allegations, reported CNN. A judge reportedly ordered the children return home in February and required CPS to maintain temporary conservatorship and to check on the family at their home at least once a month.
CPS is working with law enforcement to investigate Maleah’s alleged abduction, the agency told CNN.
“I can’t concentrate, I can’t focus,” Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, told KTRK. “It’s so overwhelming for me. It doesn’t seem real.”