A child's remains were discovered in a black garbage in Arkansas Friday while authorities searched the area for missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis, Houston police say.
Police said they could not confirm if the body was that of Davis.
Crews were searching in Fulton, Arkansas after a road clean-up crew found a black garbage bag on the roadside "emitting a foul odor." Police learned earlier in the day that the missing girl's stepfather told an activist Friday morning that the girl's death was accidental and that he'd dumped her body in Arkansas.
Though police in Houston believe Maleah Davis was killed, her death has not been confirmed and investigators, having reached a dead end in trying to find her remains, asked for the public's help in locating her body.
Sheriff James Singleton, of Hempstead County, Arkansas, spoke with the media Friday afternoon and said a search was being conducted in Fulton after Houston police reached out to them earlier in the day with a tip on where the missing child's remains may be located.
Singleton said law enforcement had been searching the area Friday when they got a call about the garbage bag.
The garbage bag contained the remains of a child, Houston police confirmed late Friday afternoon, but police said they could not confirm whether it was the body of Maleah Davis.
"We were notified by an interstate clean-up crew, a road crew, that they may have possibly found a black garbage bag here emitting a foul odor. That's why we're here, at Exit 18, in Fulton," Singleton said.
When pressed for more information, Singleton said he didn't want to elaborate on what they found inside the bag.
"I don't want to comment on that right now," Singleton said, adding that state police and the FBI were at the scene handling the evidence. "We're hoping to make some kind of determination here in the next little bit."
The search began Friday after Quanell X, a civil rights activist and the former spokesman for the missing girl's mother, Brittany Bowens, told an assembled group of reporters in Houston that he spoke with Maleah Davis' stepfather Derion Vence that morning and that Vence said the child's death was accidental. He said he then drove to Arkansas and dumped her body somewhere off the side of the road.
"This morning I was able to meet with Mr. Vance, the stepfather of Maleah Davis, and we had a long conversation. We spoke about details around Maleah's disappearance ... we talked about several things. One thing he wanted to make clear to me was, what happened to Maleah was an accident," Quanell X said. "He says it was an accident and he confessed to me where he dumped her body."
Quanell X said Friday morning that Vence was specific with him about how the girl died and where he left her body, all information he shared with police but that he didn't want to share publicly.
Vence reported the girl missing in early May, saying she'd been abducted after he pulled over on a Houston highway. Police later said the story didn't add up.
Surveillance video from a neighbor showed Vence carrying a large, blue laundry basket with a large trash bag from his apartment on May 3, said Pat Stayton, a prosecutor with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Vence returned three minutes later without the basket and later he was seen leaving the apartment with cleaning supplies, including bleach.
He has been in jail since May 11 when he was charged with tampering with evidence in connection with Davis' disappearance. Investigators said they found blood in the family's apartment that matched the girl's DNA but up to this point have not confirmed her death or filed any charges related to her death.
Police have described Vence as Maleah's stepfather, but Quanell X said previously that Vence and Bowens were recently in a fight and she broke off their engagement.
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.