The Daily News reported that 14-year-old April Millsap of Armada, Michigan, walked her dog, Penny, almost every day along Armada’s wooded Macomb Orchard Trail. But on one fateful night last July, April’s mom called the police when the two didn’t come home after their routine 30-minute outing. Tragically, April’s lifeless body was found in a drainage ditch later that evening near the popular walking and jogging trail. Medical examiners ruled April’s death a homicide.
On Oct. 9, James D. VanCallis, 32, was arraigned in connection with April’s July 24 murder and charged with premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, according to USA Today. Both murder charges would carry life sentences if he’s convicted. The attempted rape charge would carry a 10 year sentence.
Although VanCallis did not speak at his arraignment, a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf. He was ordered by the judge to be held without bail.
Police say that April’s murderer came up behind her on that wooded trail and bashed her from behind with a motorcycle helmet. She was then dragged into a denser wooded section of the park and mercilessly beaten and stomped to death.
Police say that the only thing that kept April from also being raped was a witness who appeared near the scene. A second witness in the area identified the man seen with April in the park that night as being VanCallis. Armada Police Chief Howard Smith testified in court yesterday that VanCallis approached April on the trail and that she rebuffed his advances. Smith testified that VanCallis wouldn’t accept April’s “no” as an answer.
VanCallis got off his motorcycle, Smith said, pursued the teen, ambushed her from behind, took her into the woods and continued to beat and stomp on her. Smith said VanCallis was wearing an athletic shoe with a distinctive tread pattern and that he continued to beat her until she was dead.
Smith went on to testify that VanCallis then stole April’s backpack and cellphone and “was seen on video with April’s cellphone in his possession and shoes with the same tread pattern as the marks on the teen’s body.” April’s body was partially disrobed when her remains were discovered. Smith told the judge that if another witness hadn’t appeared on the scene, VanCallis would have surely raped the 14 year old. It was that witness who helped police develop the artist’s rendering of April’s assailant and murderer.
If enough evidence is gathered by VanCallis’ November preliminary examination to warrant trial, his murder trial would begin on Dec. 15. VanCallis is still in the St. Clair County Jail where he was already being held on unrelated drug charges.