Witness: VanCallis looked scared when greeted on trail

The Detroit News
James VanCallis, accused in the murder of Armada teen April Millsap, enters the courtroom of Judge Mary Chrzanowski on Wednesday.

Mount Clemens — A witness who saw the man accused of killing a 14-year-old girl on a Macomb County hiking trail said Wednesday he remembered the look on James VanCallis’ face.

William Russell Buchanan said that when he rode past, VanCallis nodded to him in acknowledgment.

“I looked him in the eye,” he said. “His eyes were so wide, I thought he was angry or scared.”

Buchanan said he was riding his bicycle on the Macomb Orchard Trail near Armada when he saw VanCallis and April Millsap, 14, whose body was found in a wooded area along the trail around 8 p.m. July 24.

Buchanan said his first thought was “why was there someone riding a motorcycle on the trail?”

At one point, VanCallis’s attorney, Azhar Sheikh, tried to pin down Buchanan about how he was able to recognize the motorcycle’s rider, who was wearing a helmet, and see his facial hair.

Attorneys went as far as having VanCallis put the helmet on and stand a few feet from Buchanan. The witness said the rider’s helmet was tilted down more and attorneys asked VanCallis to crouch and angle his head down. VanCallis tried to comply.

Another flashpoint in the trial Wednesday came in a debate over Sheikh hiring an expert witness to testify about cellphones, but not using him. The judge admonished Sheikh for using the witness like an assistant and warned him that the court had better not receive a bill for his services larger than what had previously been agreed on.

Authorities said VanCallis was on a motorcycle a few feet away from Millsap on the trail.

Police accuse VanCallis of hitting the teen with a motorcycle helmet, stomping on her as she walked her dog along the Macomb Orchard Trail in Armada. They said he planned to rape the teen when he confronted her on the trail, but a witness interrupted him.

Sheikh has maintained investigators have never found any DNA evidence connecting his client to the crime.

He is facing charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and attempted sexual assault in connection with Millsap’s death. VanCallis’ trial began a little more than a week ago.

Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo also called three other bicyclists who told the court they saw Millsap on the trial on July 24, 2014. he saw Millsap’s dog along the trail when he was riding his bike.

Another witness was a homeowner who lives near the trail and owns a video surveillance system that captured footage of a motorcycle passing by, which prosecutors believe was VanCallis after the attack.


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