Cop recounts finding motorcycle sought in teen killing

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Mount Clemens — A Michigan State Police investigator testified Thursday he discovered a dirt bike belonging to the man on trial in the 2014 murder of Armada teen April Millsap the day after the girl’s murder.

The blue, white and black dirt bike was similar to the description of a bike given in a tip about the girl’s murder. The investigator said he saw it while driving along Armada Ridge Road at the home of a friend of James VanCallis, the man on trial in Millsap’s murder.

“I wanted to see if this was the bike the tip was referring to,” Michigan State Police Sgt. Ray Pechman testified Thursday during VanCallis’ trial.

The 34-year-old St. Clair County resident is charged in the murder of 14-year-old Millsap, who was killed while walking her dog, Penny, on July 24, 2014, along the Macomb Orchard Trail in Armada Township.

Some witnesses had reported seeing the young girl talking to a man they described as VanCallis. Others say they saw the girl with a man on a motorcycle before her body was discovered in a woody area along the nature trail.

VanCallis is being tried on first degree and felony murder, kidnapping and attempted sexual assault. The trial is being heard before Macomb Circuit Judge Mary Chrzanowski.

Earlier Thursday, FBI agent Matthew Zentz presented an animation and mapping application that he says showed the girl’s last moments and phone calls she made that day around 6:30 p.m. It is believed the teen was killed between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Millsap sent out a text shortly before the time she was killed saying, “I think I almost got kidnapped ... .”

Under cross examination by VanCallis’ defense attorney, Azhar Sheikh, Zentz testified about the data. The data showed the girl made three phone calls shortly before she was killed.

Zentz aslo testified about GPS technology using Google Earth and a Sports Tracker app on Millsap’s iPhone that tracked the girl’s movements along with those of her killer. The phone, which was taken from the crime scene, continued to show movements for more than an hour after the time police believe the teen was killed.

Millsap’s cause of death was listed as blunt head trauma and asphyxia due to neck compression, according to the Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office. Authorities say she had been beaten with a motorcycle helmet. A black motorcycle helmet belonging to VanCallis was presented in court Thursday.

Jennifer Millsap, April’s mother, has testified that her daughter did not know VanCallis.

Sheikh would not disclose Thursday whether his client would take the witness stand in his own defense.

“We’ll see how the case goes,” Sheikh said.

Macomb County Eric Smith admits investigators have no DNA evidence.

The trial is expected to continue for the next two to three weeks.

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