This undated photo released by the Houston Police Department shows Maleah Davis. Houston police are trying to determine what happened to the 4-year-old girl after her stepfather said she was taken by men who released him and his 2-year-old son after abducting them as well. An Amber Alert was issued Sunday morning, May 7, 2019, for Maleah Davis. (Houston Police Department via AP)

Car reported stolen in case of missing Texas girl found

May 09, 2019 - 1:56 pm

HOUSTON (AP) — A car that was reportedly stolen when a 4-year-old Texas girl disappeared late last week was found Thursday in a suburban Houston parking lot, authorities said.

A woman spotted the gray Nissan Altima in a Missouri City parking lot and reported it to police, Houston police Detective Kenneth Fregia said during a news conference. He said the car was found unlocked and didn't appear to be damaged, and that detectives would go over it "with a fine-toothed comb."

Brittany Bowens, the mother of missing Maleah Davis, was at the scene as police conducted an initial search of the car. She could be seen crying and hitting her hands against the ground.

Police say Maleah's stepfather, Darion Vence, told investigators that he was driving the car to the airport to pick up Bowens Friday night when he pulled over to check if it had a flat tire. Vence said men in a pickup truck pulled up, knocked him out and abducted him, Maleah and his 2-year-old son before eventually allowing him and the boy to go free, according to Houston police.

Fregia said the car's tires appeared to be fine and that investigators were searching for security footage that might show when and how it arrived in the lot.

Vence initially reported his stepdaughter missing after he showed up Saturday at a hospital in Sugar Land, which is next to Missouri City. He told police he had been in and out of consciousness over the previous 24 hours and had walked there after coming to a highway that runs through the region. However, a Sugar Land police spokesman said Vence's "story changed several times."

Fregia said Vence hasn't spoken with investigators since Saturday and that he'd "like to talk" with Vence again but isn't concerned about his whereabouts.

Child Protective Services has been monitoring the home where Maleah lived with Vence, her mother and her siblings for months, according to spokeswoman Tiffani Butler.

In August, the girl and her 5- and 1-year-old brothers were removed from the home and placed in the care of relatives after Maleah suffered a head injured that eventually led to her having multiple brain surgeries, Butler said. They were returned in February but officially remained in state custody and were checked on by a caseworker each month, she said.

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An earlier version of this story was corrected to reflect that the car was found Thursday, not Tuesday.

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