Witness: Millsap had 'tense' smile
Romeo — An Oakland University professor identified James VanCallis as the man she saw with 14-year-old April Millsap the day the girl was found dead on the Macomb Orchard Trail.
Mary Stein testified Monday during the preliminary examination for VanCallis, 32, of Goodells in St. Clair County, before 42nd District Judge Denis LeDuc. She said VanCallis was the man she saw talking with Millsap in a wooded area of the trail in July.
Stein described VanCallis as seeming uncomfortable when she and her husband, Douglas, rode by Millsap and VanCallis around 6:25 p.m. July 24.
Stein, an education professor, said Millsap had a "tight (and) tense" smile when she rode by the Armada teen and the man, who was on a motorcycle.
"He did not say hi. We made eye contact and he looked down," Stein said Monday. "(Millsap's smile) seemed like it was friendly but nervous."
Stein, who said she felt an uneasiness about seeing VanCallis at the trail with the girl, contacted authorities the next day through a tip line when she heard media reports about the teen's death.
"I sensed something was not right about the situation," Stein testified Monday.
Stein later contacted Armada police after seeing video of VanCallis in a news report about his arrest on another charge, telling police he was the man she saw with Millsap in late July. Stein said she had "no doubt" it was VanCallis.
Another witness, William Russell Buchanan, also identified VanCallis as the man he saw in the area around 6:23 p.m. July 24 a few feet away from Millsap as she walked and appeared to talk on the phone on the trail.
Buchanan, who was biking in the area, said he thought VanCallis appeared out of place and looked "scary, frightened and bug-eyed."
"He looked nervous," Buchanan testified Monday. He added that VanCallis looked at him with large, round eyes "like he was sort of in a panic."
Buchanan said VanCallis was on a motorcycle, which might have been an off-road bike.
He said VanCallis was straddling the bike when he saw him with a helmet on, but that he could see his face and gaze through the pulled-down part of the helmet.
Also taking the stand Monday was Matthew Sadaj, the man who found Millsap's body.
Sadaj and his wife were exercising on the trail when the girl's whimpering dog, Penny, came to them from the area where the girl lay dead.
Initially, Sadaj said, he thought Millsap was a mannequin when he followed her dog's cries to her body.
Sadaj, who had been biking on the trail, testified Monday he kept asking, "Are you OK? Do you need help?" before he realized Millsap was dead.
Armada Police Officer Phil Neumeyer testified that the clothing on Millsap's upper body had been torn away and her skirt and underwear pulled down.
Her shoes were found 10 and 15 feet away from her body.
The girl had abrasions to her face and her teeth had been "dislodged," Neumeyer testified.
Millsap's mother, Jennifer, also took the witness stand Monday. She testified that she became alarmed after her young daughter failed to show at home 2 1/2 hours after going out for a walk at 5:30 p.m. July 24.
Jennifer Millsap said she did not know the man accused of her child's murder.
Millsap, fearing for her life, texted around 6:28 p.m. to her boyfriend July 24: "I almost got kidnapped."
Ten witnesses and some law enforcement officials took the witness stand in the preliminary examination, which is expected to continue Tuesday.
Police say VanCallis was planning to rape Millsap when he confronted her on the trail, but a witness interrupted him.
The girl rebuffed VanCallis and walked away, but he followed and ambushed her from behind, using his helmet as a weapon. VanCallis, according to authorities, moved the girl into a wooded area, where he beat and stomped her.
The athletic shoes VanCallis was wearing had a distinctive tread pattern, according to authorities.
Authorities sayVanCallis beat Millsap until she was dead, then stole her cellphone and backpack and fled the scene.
The girl died of blunt head trauma and asphyxia due to neck compression, according to the Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office.
VanCallis faces three charges: first-degree premeditated murder and felony murder, both of which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, and assault with the intent to commit sexual penetration.
He and his father, James Bernard VanCallis, 66, were arrested July 30 on drug charges related to a pot-growing operation at their residence. The father and son pleaded guilty to manufacturing marijuana Oct. 20.
Millsap, who was a student at Armada Middle School, would have been a high school student this fall.
email@example.com(313) 222-2027Ursula Watson contributed.