34-year-old James VanCallis Jr. was found guilty of murder on Monday morning, by a jury of twelve people in the Macomb County Circuit Court. The person they believe he is guilty of murdering? 14-year-old April Millsap, who was found dead in a wooded area where she had been walking her dog, Penny.The trial itself was different from many murder trials, in that the prosecution didn’t have any physical evidence to back up their claim that VanCallis was guilty. Rather, it was the lack of evidence that they used to “prove” their argument – the motorcycle helmet that they said VanCallis used to knock April out, which the prosecution couldn’t find because the defendant threw it out. The shoes he was wearing when he allegedly stepped on April’s neck to crush her windpipe, that the prosecution couldn’t introduce into evidence because they never found them. And so on, and so forth….
According to court transcripts, the evidence was circumstantial at best. Surveillance footage of VanCallis driving down the street at the same moment that April’s phone app showed that her phone was speeding by. The fact that several people saw VanCallis on the Macomb Orchard Trail that same morning that April was out walking her dog. His ex-girlfriend testified that she found a clump of hair in his sweatshirt pocket shortly afterwards – hair that didn’t belong to her, or to him. But the hair was never tested, and no one can be certain of where it comes from.
A Body Was Found but Where Is The Evidence?
April’s body was found by a bystander in the area. Her shorts and underwear were pulled down to her ankles. It was later stated by police that whoever killed April had tried to rape her, but had been interrupted before the act was completed. She was beaten to death, which police said was done by VanCallis, using his motorcycle helmet.
The evidence that the prosecution did provide was the fact that April was seen talking to a man on a small blue and white motorcycle shortly before her death. That man was later identified as VanCallis by another witness. At the same time, April sent a text to her boyfriend in which she says, “I almost got kidnapped! OMFG.” Later on, another witness saw VanCallis in the woods, very close to where the body was found shortly afterwards.
VanCallis was charged with first-degree premeditated murder and felony murder, both charges that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison under Michigan law. Additionally, he was charged with Assault with the intent to commit sexual penetration, which is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. After a two week trial, the jury found him guilty on all three counts.
After the trial, VanCallis returned to the Macomb County Jail, where he will stay until his sentencing on March 30th. Under Michigan law, he is facing the very real likelihood of life in prison.