Deven is Missing

Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content

Episode three: When Deven graduated from high school in Baltimore, she was one of the top students in her class. She got a scholarship to attend Marymount University, and it seemed like she had a bright future ahead of her. But then, she left upstate New York with John and completely disappeared.


This series is created with Evoke Media, a woman-founded company devoted to harnessing the power of storytelling to drive social change.

This series is presented by Marguerite Casey Foundation. MCF supports leaders who work to shift the balance of power in their communities toward working people and families, and who have the vision and capacity for building a truly representative economy. Learn more at or visit on social media @caseygrants.

Follow host Liz Flock on Twitter @lizflock. For more stories of women and self-defense, check out her book “The Furies” from Harper Books, available for pre-order now.

Interested in bonus content and behind the scenes material? Subscribe to Lemonada Premium right now in the Apple Podcasts app by clicking on our podcast logo and the “subscribe” button.

Click this link for a list of current sponsors and discount codes for this and all other Lemonada series:



Kara, Deven, Lesley, Simone, Liz Flock, Gene

Liz Flock  00:01

This show contains violent content and scenes of domestic abuse.

Gene  00:15

So when I got to close late, and she said, dad, I said, wait a minute, Deven. Where are you? I mean, I don’t know exactly where I’m at what state, Alabama?

Liz Flock  00:31

That’s Deven’s dad gene. In 2017, he received a call from Devon out of the blue. By this point, she’d been gone for 5 years, and no one knew exactly where she was. So Gene was desperate to reconnect with his daughter. And her call came as a shock.

Gene  00:50

She said, I’m on the computer. I’m opening up my own business, blah, blah, blah. She wants to she wanted I guess she was selling stuff online.

Liz Flock  00:59

Deven and John had started an eBay business selling jewelry, and things were looking up. They both quit drinking, and Deven says the abuse stopped. But eventually John relapsed. And she says the violence started up again. So when she called her dad in 2017, she was in a really dark place.

Gene  01:19

So Deven, I miss you so much. You know, come on, baby. Let me if you don’t want to be there, let me come get you. I’m getting a car right now. I’ll get in the car right now. I’ll call the police. Gonna do a wellness check. And you give me an address. I’ll be there put that stuff in my ways, and I’ll be there.

Liz Flock  01:41

Deven didn’t tell her father where she was in part because she says she didn’t feel like she deserved to be saved. But she also worried John would hurt her dad if he drove down to Alabama to get her.

Gene  01:54

She couldn’t tell me. She couldn’t tell me twice. And that was the last I heard from her too. She went to jail.

Liz Flock  02:06

This is Blind Plea. I’m your host Liz FLOK. How did Deven lose touch with all her loved ones? And how did she just disappear? From a young age Devin didn’t have a strong sense of home. She never felt tethered to one place. She lived at her mom’s her grandparents and her dad’s drifting from one world to the other. In the end, she slipped right through their fingertips and into John’s hands. This past fall, I went to meet her dad, stepmom and other family members in Baltimore. And what stood out to me most were the parts of Deven that went unseen by everyone. The Invisible girl searching for things Her family couldn’t provide the parts of Deven that drew her like a powerful magnet to John. I’m meeting Deven’s family for the first time. We’re at her aunt Leslie’s house, which is cozy with deep couches and warm lamps and inspirational quotes on the wall. Like good vibes only. As we sit and talk, more family arrives. Devon’s dad and two aunts than her cousin Vincent, her sister Simone and Simone’s five month old baby. For the first time they’re FaceTiming Deven as a whole family. Deven’s daughter is also there playing noisy games on an iPad. Gene worked hard to get custody of her after the shooting. And she lives with him now. Because she’s autistic. She attends a school with specialized programs. Everyone says she’s thriving there.

Liz Flock  05:19

Afterwards, we sat around and talked about the Deven they remembered when she was younger.

Simone  05:23

My mom used to call her eccentric or whatever, because she was so odd. Really, always keep to herself and like, go in the woods and talk to the trees.

Liz Flock  05:34

that’s Deven Sister, Simone. When I saw Simone, for the first time I saw Deven, they’ve got the same round cheeks, radiant smile and fun, loving laugh. They also both talk in this childlike way at times, like they never got to be kids. When Devin was born, Simone was eight years old and over the moon with excitement.

Simone  05:58

Can have a real baby doll. I just watch her sleep all the time.

Liz Flock  06:03

Devon’s parents separated when she was two, and their separation up ended her and her sisters lives.

Gene  06:10

Deven came along with me and my ex-wife broke up. So I really didn’t know her like that. She was grown, I would go visit.

Liz Flock  06:22

Deven’s dad Gene is a beanpole, just like his daughter, well over six feet. He used to play basketball back in the day and he’s wearing a tracksuit. He’s kind and warm and person, but also the kind of guy who does not suffer fools gladly. He’s pretty skeptical of me and my producer […] when we first arrive. But as soon as he starts talking about Deven, one thing is clear. He really loves her.

Gene  06:48

I try to be the most private guy to plan it when I’m going to open up for my daughter.

Liz Flock  06:53

Gene didn’t spend much time with Devin in her early years. After Deven’s parents separated. Devon’s mom Kim gained custody of the girls. They moved two hours away to the Saratoga area in upstate New York.

Gene  07:07

A lot of cases the woman wins the race for the children, regardless, so I accepted that. So I said, as long as I could be in her life, so she knows who I am. I let her know how much I love her. So all I can do is so the only position I was in.

Liz Flock  07:23

The divorce was ugly. Gene left Kim for a new woman named Joan and everyone says Kim tried to turn the kids against them. Simone even referred to Joan as her evil stepmother.

Simone  07:34

Me and his wife don’t get along. That’s a whole different podcast.

Liz Flock  07:40

Deven was more accepting of her new stepmom. She called Joan her steppy with affection. But things changed for the kids and their dad who eventually moved six hours away to Baltimore. Kim didn’t take the divorce well, she started drinking a lot. Deven sometimes writes about that time in her journal. She says it’s a way of making sense of how she got from there. From what she calls her blessed life to here in prison. She reads an entry to me.

Deven  08:11

I had everything I could ever want and more that yet I was lacking the one thing I needed most. My mother and my father. My mother had a good heart, but it was damaged, bruised and broken. She never recovered from my father’s betrayal. She loved me. But it was never enough never all at once, never what I deserved. My father was the same only able to show me when he would get me for visits. But even then he was more of the kind of dad that would be my best buddy. wasn’t ever overly affectionate was felt alone. Left out not good enough.

Liz Flock  08:48

Deven’s parents weren’t fully present, Kim was drinking, and her dad was building a life with his new partner. So Deven was sent to live with her maternal grandparents on Saratoga lake in New York. Not far from her mom’s house. She was in first grade.

Deven  09:05

My mom pretty much was like, Yeah, you can take Devon away from me because I’m not like really going to be like a mom enough for her. It’s how I felt at the time.

Liz Flock  09:16

Deven’s grandparents were attentive, nurturing, and provided a much needed sense of stability. And while her grandmother was her rock, Devon’s grandfather was the apple of her eye.

Deven  09:27

My grandma was like a saint on Earth, but it wasn’t like I did something about my grandpa like I just, that was my dude.

Liz Flock  09:38

Deven’s grandfather, Alvin was the patriarch of the family. Everyone always went to him for advice. He was unflappable. He just always seemed to have it together. And he was fun, taking all the grandkids to the amusement park and using his savings to build them a new inground pool. Alvin was also Deven’s best friend, her grandfather is the one who taught otter how to spell do her multiplication tables and ride a bike. He always made sure Deven was dressed to the nines in jumpers and skirts. Like she was a little lady. Deven wanted to make him proud.

Deven  10:12

I love him so much. I guess I put all the love that. I couldn’t say no to my parents into him because like he was my parents.

Liz Flock  10:24

When she turned 14, her grandmother passed away. And then her grandfather Alvin got sick with prostate cancer. Deven took care of him.

Deven  10:34

There was a moment and I will never forget that I went to like, help him and I think I had to, like change his bed pad. And he couldn’t talk, you know, because the cancer just ate up so quick. And he like, he was grunting at me. And I started because I grew up on my own you, I’m so sorry. But he was like, he wasn’t, it wasn’t pain. He just didn’t want me to have to do that, you know? Cuz he was the strong one, you know? And I remember that. And I was like, Grandpa, I love you. Like, there’s nothing I wouldn’t for you. It’s okay. You know.

Liz Flock  11:16

He died when Deven was 16. And she was devastated.

Deven  11:20

I was in third period. And I remember getting like they call into the classroom. And I just remember telling my friends, please don’t let it be for me. Please don’t let it be for me. And I just had this gut feeling that it was for me. And when the teacher was like, Deven, they need you. I just lost my mind. I started crying. I already knew. My sister came and picked me up and she just threw her hands up in the air. And I remember like falling to my knees in the middle of the hallway at the high school. Instead to come get me and pick me up and I just cried the whole way home that day, right? When I was it was kind of like, I lost like my I lost like, you know, I hate to like cuss but I lost […]. You know. So that’s kind of when like things spiral. Because it was like, if I don’t have him, I really don’t have anybody.

Liz Flock  12:19

When Devin told me this, I felt like I finally understood why she was so vulnerable to someone like John. Of course, there were a lot of reasons. But losing her father figure was so destabilizing. Without a constant home and with low self-esteem. It was the perfect opportunity for someone to take advantage of, for someone to swoop right in. With her grandpa gone, Devon needed a place to land. Her mom was still drinking. So her dad was the next obvious choice. So Devon was sent to Baltimore, it would be the fifth time she moved from one family member to another.

Gene  12:58

Once her grandparents passed away, she and she came back to live with me. She was still good. I mean, we hadn’t I didn’t see a change that much, you know. But I didn’t know there was a dark side in her because it she didn’t share it.

Liz Flock  13:21

In 2009, at the age of 17, Devon found herself in a new and unfamiliar world, the big bruising city of Baltimore, which was so much louder and more chaotic than Saratoga.

Deven  13:34

I was so used to like disappointment. And I was like used to like things being taken away from me. So like, even though that sounds kind of like depressing, like I was kind of just like I was like really go with a flow.

Liz Flock  13:47

It was a culture shock, but she tried to go with the flow like she was used to doing. Deven was starting her last year of high school. It was pretty scary to start all over as a senior. Devin had always been a good student taking honors classes making the Dean’s list. So her dad Jean put her in one of the most elite high schools in Baltimore, Western High. It’s the kind of school where teachers expect you to get into a top college. Their motto is Western, only the best. In Baltimore, Deven was building new friendships and spending more time with her dad. But she’s still long for her mom’s acceptance, and Kim’s drinking was getting worse. On visits to Saratoga. Her mom got drunk and belligerent and said hurtful things to Devon. Like she would tell her that she was fat, or that she wished she had never gotten pregnant

Deven  14:40

with her. Even if she wasn’t the best she could be like, she was still my mom. And she still had her moments where she was like, really legit, and I guess I craved that so much that I took the bad with it, you know?

Liz Flock  14:59

Deven went looking for affection anywhere she could find it. in Saratoga at the age of 17. She lost her virginity to a guy she barely knew she had been drunk and instantly regretted it. Devon was caught between two worlds. She was trying to be the Straight A clean cut high school senior in Baltimore. But when she visited her mom and sister in Saratoga, she drank and partied just like them. She said she was trying to fit in, but in trying to please everyone, Deven lost herself.

Liz Flock  15:50

In 2010, Deven graduated high school, her dad’s side of the family came to her graduation, where Devin wore a brand new short sleeve white dress. Afterwards, Devin decided to move back to Saratoga for the summer break before college. There was less pressure there. And Devon wanted so badly to be close with her mom and sister, Simone, talk to me about their life in Saratoga.

Simone  16:15

They call it the projects of Saratoga. But it wasn’t really projects. I did think I’ve been to some projects in they were pretty nice. You know, there’s just a lot of drinking and partying going around in there.

Liz Flock  16:29

Deven met John had a house party at her mom’s apartment complex. She was 18. He’s like 24. John was commanding. Everyone noticed him.

Simone  16:40

If he walks in the room, I he demands the attention type of person. Like one of those type.

Liz Flock  16:47

Deven and John had something in common to both of their moms with drink. John and his mom, Christine live just behind Deven’s family. They were close, Simone said they called Christine their other mother. They made meals together, they help take care of each other. And they drank together.

Simone  17:05

You know, we’d all just get drunk. In the back little square.

Liz Flock  17:09

In John, Deven had found someone who got her. He was White and Deven is black, but neither of them thought much about it. He knew what it was like to grow up around alcohol and to have an absent parent. Plus, John impressed her.

Deven  17:24

He was really smart. He was so smart. And you know, I could talk to him, you know, in ways that I couldn’t talk to anybody else. You know, because we were friends. We were actually like really good friends. Before we got romantically involved, like, it was almost like my best friend.

Liz Flock  17:46

John was often more handy than anyone else in the room. He could fix cars, build computers from parts, make furniture and jewelry, and he was handsome. Looking at a picture of John from that time, he kind of reminds me of Channing Tatum with his muscular build and shaved head, except with more of the bad boy attitude of Eminem. John started buying Deven nice things, expensive clothes, flowers, candy. When he wasn’t drunk. He didn’t act like a jerk. He was charming, fun, and he was giving Devin the attention she’d always craved. While Deven saw John as the best friend Simone felt differently.

Simone  18:29

I knew John first in that always say he’s such a jerk. But she uses Jonathan Jones. He just thought this shit didn’t stink so to speak.

Liz Flock  18:39

Remember, John had a lengthy criminal record. In addition to his alleged assault in jail, and shooting a rifle into the air. He had also gotten arrested for criminal mischief for breaking objects in someone’s house and spent a year behind bars for allegedly attempting to sell cocaine. Because he was wanted by multiple police departments. John tried to keep a low profile so much that he sometimes did weird things around the neighborhood.

Simone  19:04

He like sneak into the development because he was wanted by the cops. So he had to try another costume. And it’s funny. One time we were like a clown. I’m like, how are you? Hidden with a clown hair going on? Yeah, clown here. Yeah, like a wig and some shades. Not like the colorful kind of clown but like, you know, just like a light purple or something. I don’t know. It was crazy.

Liz Flock  19:36

The clown suit was camouflage so he could get inside his mom’s house without being seen by the cops. It was unconventional, but it worked. As the summer wound down, Devon went back to Baltimore to get ready for college. She and John said their goodbyes and didn’t plan to keep in touch. Because even though they understood each other, they assumed it was just the summer blank. A few months prior in the spring of 2010, Devin had graduated in the top 10 of her elite high school class. She gotten accepted into a top Catholic College, Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, which her family says gave her a scholarship to attend. She thought she might become a journalist because she loved to write. And she was good at it.

Gene  20:23

She graduated High Honors. Got into college, they have virtually for free. She went the four year she did good. Maybe I don’t know if it was a year. But anyway, she kind of started backsliding.

Liz Flock  20:41

When Gene says Deven started backsliding. He means drinking. It’s pretty typical for college students to drink and party. But Devon’s drinking got bad, intervention bad. I was

Deven  20:53

Partying too much. And yeah, like I was doing during the class, but I was like, going to class I was like, oh, or like, called over and I was miserable. And I wasn’t, I wasn’t happy at all.

Liz Flock  21:07

She drank so much. She got alcohol poisoning twice. Both times she blacked out and ended up in the hospital.

Deven  21:16

I was just overwhelmed. And I know that wasn’t mature enough, like, as far as like, being able to like make my own decisions. And like being an adult. I just made a lot of poor choices in school. And I started to party and party became more important to me that my schoolwork got a little out of control.

Gene  21:41

Went to the school. I said Emily worked hard to make this happen. I can’t but I can’t control what she does. It happened he can so they booted from school.

Liz Flock  21:52

Deven’s the one who called her dad, they met with the dean and agreed that Deven would leave school because of her drinking. Deven was fine with that, because she felt she wasn’t ready to be out on her own. It’s rare that people are totally mature in college. But Deven felt especially unprepared and out of place. She’d only been doing college to please her family anyway.

Gene  22:15

Of course, I’m crying. She’s crying. Don’t be mad. I’m not mad, I’m disappointed. This is an opportunity. I know that alcohol was strong in your life at this time.

Deven  22:30

I think that my family’s expectations for me were so high because they knew my potential. They didn’t realize the kind of pressure they were putting on me. And then the pressure they put on me, I said all by myself even more. Yeah. So once I did that, once I did that, it was just like, it kills me insane.

Liz Flock  22:53

When I met them, I saw that her family was intense. They really valued education. And they had good reason for that. Gene and his sisters grew up in the projects in Brooklyn. And throughout their childhood, they were in survival mode. Gene told me that crime and death were all around him when he was a kid. He had worked hard to build a different kind of life. So Gene didn’t accept anyone doing anything but their best. Deven, one thing she said is like my family didn’t realize what kind of pressure they’re putting on me or like expectations were really high. Do you think that’s true or not?

Gene  23:31

I can see that because it was high expectations put on me. You always want the best. I mean, I didn’t look at that as like too much. I mean, if she said, Dad, that’s what I want to be. I would say, well, I’ll help you be that. But I said just be the best you can be. Now, if she wasn’t capable of being what I expected. That’s a different conversation. But you always got to have high expectations for any child, any person, I’d have our expectations of you and I don’t even know you.

Liz Flock  24:03

Back under her dad’s roof in Baltimore, Deven started to fall apart.

Deven  24:08

I didn’t want to go out and they weren’t doing anything. And it was by like a counter reaction because even though I was depressed, and I didn’t want to go out to do anything, that going out and getting anything.

Liz Flock  24:22

Her dad notice she was depressed and tried to get her help.

Gene  24:26

Out to go for psychological counseling. So at some point, he said, I think she’s fine.

Liz Flock  24:34

She was not fine, but the counselor didn’t see anything wrong. Deven was 19 by this time, and a college dropout. She felt like a total failure. At her age. Her dad had excelled at both school and basketball. Meanwhile, she couldn’t even get out of bed.

Gene  24:53

There was some deep seated issues going on, obviously, but I couldn’t address it. Didn’t know how. There’s certain things she will share with me, which is fine, because I’m a guy. So I get that. But it’s so I never knew what was all in her heart, if that makes sense.

Liz Flock  25:12

She felt like she couldn’t open up to her dad. Not with all his high expectations. Gene didn’t understand all that she was going through. So it gave her an ultimatum.

Gene  25:23

I told her that she’s not going to school, she has to work. I took the jobs, retail stores as I want to see if this is just this gives an impetus to say I don’t want to do this. I want to go to college, because that’s what gets you to another college just had only college. And nothing happened. So finally, she said, I’m going to take a break, I need a break. And I said to myself a break from what you haven’t been doing anything but I didn’t say that to her.

Liz Flock  25:53

And so in July 2011, after talking to her mom and sister in Saratoga, Deven decided to take that break, to leave her dad’s house and go back to live with them.

Gene  26:04

She got in the car. She gave me a kiss and a hug. Said see you in a while dad.

Liz Flock  26:09

But Gene had a sinking feeling she was running toward trouble.

Gene  26:14

Okay, honey, I know I wouldn’t her again. Like I said I was the last time I saw when she left.

Liz Flock  26:35

In Saratoga, Deven once again filled her days partying with Kim and Simone. She says she went a little off the rails stealing alcohol from CVS and gas stations with her friends. One time she and Simone got into a physical fight while drunk and the cops were called. And as Devin began drinking more, Simone says she rekindled her relationship with John.

Simone  26:57

She’d be over there at John’s house, you know, and I’d be like somewhere else and we got to relax, girl we’re getting to Saffy. […] Though by little it’s just like I hardly seen her. But I would talk to her. I’d be like Deven, just checking in. Make sure you don’t be leaving, you know, mom needs us.

Liz Flock  27:39

Just like Jean Simone was worried that something was shifting in Devon, that maybe she’d even leave Saratoga with John. Simone tried to keep Deven close. That New Year’s Eve and 2011. Simone and Deven had made plans to hang out. But it never happened. Instead, Simone caught a DWI, and spent the night in jail. When she got out, Deven was gone. Before John convinced Deven to go to Alabama, he asked her to run away with him to New York City. It happened that New Year’s Eve while Simone was away getting arrested. Deven was 19 at the time, and she had all of the reasons to run to make a great escape. To experience the outside world. John sent a friend to pick her up. Because of his pending charges. He wasn’t staying at his mom’s. And he didn’t want to be seen there.

Deven  28:37

At first, I didn’t think I was going to go because I’m scared. And I was really nervous. But once I made that decision, it was very impulsive. And it was one of those things are literally in the middle of when I eat like they just pack me up and put me in the car. It just didn’t seem like it was gonna take me down to this path, but it just didn’t. I didn’t see it being so serious.

Liz Flock  29:05

Deven thought this would just be a detour, that it would give her some breathing room from her feeling of failure for a while, and that John would take care of her that he would give her a home. But that’s not what happened. As soon as he got her away from her family. She says the relationship changed. In New York City she and John started fighting. She says that’s where John hit her for the first time.

Deven  29:32

It surprised me. I’ve never been hit like that before.

Liz Flock  29:39

They were arguing and then Deven remembers that she said something he didn’t like and that’s when he smacked her in the mouth.

Deven  29:46

I didn’t realize you know what I had done to deserve it. Other than I just I guess I just ran my mouth is punishing me for it. And then of course like the next day he was suffering if he was ever gonna do it again and you know, and then like maybe a week later we are to another argument and it happened again.

Liz Flock  30:09

He told her he was sorry and would never do it again. But then Devin said he did over and over, then more […] following the usual abusers pattern. She wondered if this was all her fault that she was failing at the relationship and keeping him happy. Just like she had failed at everything. Deven said that as the abuse ramped up, John also cut her off from the world. She couldn’t check her Facebook, couldn’t make phone calls. couldn’t go anywhere.

Deven  30:41

I’ve pretty much had to say in the room that we slept all the time, like I didn’t get to go, come out, get to nothing.

Liz Flock  30:50

They were living at John’s aunt’s house, and Deven says John didn’t want her leaving the bedroom. She says she was surprised by John’s abuse and control at first, then scared and then ashamed. This all reminds me of reporting I’ve done on human trafficking, trafficking and domestic abuse are closely linked. Deven’s case doesn’t meet the strict definition of trafficking. He wasn’t making money off of her. But there are a lot of similarities. In trafficking. The perpetrators often do nice things at first, like showering a person with attention, gifts and false promises, just like Devin says John did. But then the abuse begins often after they’ve been isolated from their family and friends, or any ability to get help. As Devin found herself sinking into John’s isolation, those closest to her worried about where she’d gone. Devin says John wouldn’t let her have a phone in New York. With her number not working. People tried to get in touch with her through Facebook.

Simone  31:56

I call my mom and she’s like, yeah, you sister took off in the middle of the night, can’t find your sister.

Lesley  32:04

We didn’t know where she was at. We didn’t even know. I know. All I know is Kim was looking for her. So that’s the only way to know Kim wanted to know where her baby was.

Liz Flock  32:13

That’s Devon’s aunt Lesley, whose house we visited in Baltimore. Lesley says Devon’s mom Kim really wanted to find her, but she never did reconnect with her daughter. Because Kim unfortunately died of cirrhosis. A few years after Devon left with John. Simone kept trying to find Devon to she posted to Devon’s Facebook page throughout 2012 trying different tactics to get Deven to respond. She got angry, warning her sister not to abandon their mom. At one point Simone even posted to Deven’s page that she was getting married.

Deven  33:08

Oh, by the way, I’m getting married and you’re invited, so call me.

Liz Flock  33:12

And still nothing. No reply. Simone suspected Deven may have run away with John. So she kept asking John’s mom Christine if she knew where they went. But she says Christine told her no. Deven’s best friend, Kara also noticed something was off.

Kara  33:30

The brother of my neighbor passed away. So I reached out to let her know that and she didn’t respond. And I’m like, Okay, no, something’s off because she would care about this. But she didn’t have access to the internet at that point. And when I realized like something was wrong, I went back to her Facebook and saw her family posting like trying to get her to reach out to them and I’m like, oh, so she cut everybody off. What the hell’s going on? I’m also that FBI friend. If you need find someone I can, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. which concern the hell out of me, because it’s not difficult for me to do that. But I couldn’t find anything.

Liz Flock  34:10

Over the years her friends and family continued to post to her Facebook page. No one knew she was an Alabama. When I asked Deven’s family in Baltimore about when she disappeared, I was surprised to learn that no one filed a missing person’s report. But they told me they didn’t think the cops could or would do anything. And for good reason. Even though Black girls go missing at a disproportionate rate to White girls, they typically get less attention from the cops and the media. Police also wrongly categorize many missing Black girl cases as runaways when really they are The victims of abuse or trafficking or worse. As for Deven, she was now over 18. And her family had a feeling she might not want to be found. And you might be thinking her family’s still could have done more to find her. But what were they supposed to do? Exactly. Devon said John was good at making sure she was never reachable for law. When I talked to her family, it was clear that this was a sore subject for them. Especially her dad, Jean. He felt like he couldn’t do anything about his daughter totally disappearing, that he had no control.

Gene  35:39

Let me say this again.

Liz Flock  35:40

Yeah. And I’m sorry, I keep asking you

Gene  35:42

The same question different ways. Like a lawyer. So this is a thing. She has a lot of things I did not know. Because when a child is 18, you can’t stop them. Or I get arrested for abduction. So go ahead, honey. If you if you feel like you need a break. Go ahead. See you when you get back. I knew there was trouble, people tend to run the trouble sometime.

Liz Flock  36:18

At some points while we talked. Gene seemed to blame Deven. At other points. He blamed himself.

Gene  36:25

As a dad, you always wanted to protect your children. And I couldn’t protect her. Because I didn’t know where she was.

Liz Flock  36:34

It was like all these years later, he still didn’t know how to feel.

Gene  36:40

How can you find someone? How can when Alabama is not like? The state of Alabama. How can you find someone where you will have no idea what they are? Did she ever call me to tell me she was okay?

Simone  36:52

Was like kind of angry inside for her snack trying to reach out secretly, secretly grabbed the phone and call.

Kara  37:01

Like I pretty much grieved her at that point, because I didn’t think she was coming back.

Liz Flock  37:11

Although Deven had a phone in Alabama, she says John monitored her communications and repeatedly warned her not to contact her family. So Deven didn’t for years. But then in 2017, Deven made a call to her dad Jean, the phone call you heard about at the start of this episode. It had been five years since the last time they spoke. Gene says she sounded drunk on the call. At this point in Alabama, Deven was isolated. Only sleeping a few hours a night having nightmares and not leaving the house.

Gene  37:44

So I sad I’ll get you out there, she said no. Lesley told me we both go get it. I said Deven, you drink and now. I can’t talk to you like this. I want to help you but you don’t want to help. She called back. So Deven, I need to come get you baby because you weren’t you wouldn’t call me if you weren’t happy.

Liz Flock  38:06

Deven […] before calling her dad so that he couldn’t call her back. Gene got a couple more calls from Deven over the next few months. But the calls were always brief, and always cryptic. After one of the calls, she says John found out what she had done and beat her. She told me it was worth it to hear her dad’s voice. One time she forgot to dial star 68 Gene called her back immediately. John saw the call and got angry she says shortly after that. Deven says John changed her number. And then no one could reach her again. Except there was one person who Deven confided in and that person was John’s mom, Christine. All the while as Deven says John became more controlling. Deven stayed in contact with Christine. They would talk on the phone all the time.

Christine 39:18

She’s like, Oh my god, I knew this was gonna happen. I should have asked you out. The baby out like she was. She was like remorseful.

Liz Flock  39:28

The morning of December 12 2017. As Deven was still processing what had happened. She made a call to Christine to tell her that her son was dead. To tell her she was the one who had killed him. She felt like Christine might understand because she says Christine witnessed the abuse. That’s next time on Blind Plea.

Christine 39:52

I think my son has always been attracted to girls who are needing to be saved.

Liz Flock  39:59

Who was John Henry Vance, we’ll unpack the boy from Alabama and the man who was killed, and we’ll meet the woman who raised him, Christine.

Christine 40:09

And if it is at the point that my son is putting his hands on you, get the fuck out of there.

CREDITS  40:16

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, use a safe computer and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at the or call 1-800-799-7233 There’s more Blind Plea with Lemonada Premium, subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like an interview with John’s dad, Henry and Tate from Deven’s detective interview the night of the shooting. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts Blind Plea is production of Lemonada Media. I’m your host Liz Flock. This episode was produced by Kristin Lapore, […] Evans and Tony Williams, Hannah Boomershine and Rachel Pilgrim are also our producers. Story editing by Martina Abrahams Ilunga. Mix music and sound design by Andrea Kristinsdóttir  with additional mixing and engineering from Ivan Kuraev. Naomi Barr is our fact checker. Jayla Everett is our production intern. Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittles Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, evoked media, Sabrina Merage Naim and myself, Liz Flock. This series is presented by Marguerite Casey Foundation. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. Follow me at @LizFlock. And for more stories of women and self-defense, check out my book The Furies from Harper books available for preorder now. Find Lemonada at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms, and follow Blind Plea wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. Thanks so much for listening.

Spoil Your Inbox

Pods, news, special deals… oh my.