Phone experts take focus in Millsap murder trial

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The ex-girlfriend of the man charged in the killing of a 14-year-old Macomb County girl testified Friday he told her he had “messed up” hours after the slaying and that he asked her to lie to police about what shoes he was wearing the day of the death.

Krystal Stadler, who was in a nine-year relationship with 34-year-old defendant James VanCallis, testified for three hours Friday in Macomb Circuit Court about missing shoes and VanCallis’ statement after the discovery of the beaten body of April Millsap around 8 :20 p.m. July 24, 2014, in a ditch along the Macomb Orchard Trial.

“I really messed up,” Stadler quoted VanCallis as saying to her. “And he really needed me to stand by his side.”

Millsap was killed while walking her dog, Penny, in Armada Township. VanCallis is being tried on first-degree and felony murder, kidnapping and attempted sexual assault charges.

Stadler, who said she was physically abused by VanCallis and feared him, said he made the statements after she saw him cleaning his black and white Jordan gym shoes with hand sanitizer and a sock.

She said the shoes, a shoe box in which the couple kept important papers and a Carhartt hoodie later disappeared from their living quarters attached to his family’s St. Clair County home.

Stadler said VanCallis told her to tell police he was wearing another brand of shoes and not the Jordan gym shoes, which authorities believe caused the distinct lines on the face of Millsap when she was “stomped to death.”

Stadler repeated her earlier statements Friday that VanCallis told her and his father to tell police “I was wearing K-Swiss shoes” when they came to the family’s home to question VanCallis two days after Millsap’s murder.

Stadler testified VanCallis went to visit his brother, who lives in Armada, around 4:30 p.m. She said he returned between 8:30 and 9 p.m.

She said VanCallis asked her to wash his clothes when he returned home, which was unusual since he washed his own clothes. She said she discovered in VanCallis’ gray hoodie a wad of hair, which she testified during a preliminary examination in December 2014 matched Millsap’s.

She said VanCallis also had an injury, which photos showed to be a deep scratch on his right leg.

VanCallis was arrested six days after the discovery of the girl’s body. His attorney, Azhar Sheikh, has pointed out there is no DNA tying his client to the girl’s death.

Stadler said she learned of Millsap’s killing after seeing a report about it on Facebook. She said she showed it to VanCallis and he didn’t react. She said at one point, VanCallis told her he “was going to bring me down with him.”

When asked by Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor William Cataldo if she helped to hide evidence, Stadler denied she did.

Sheikh stabbed at Stadler’s credibility, asking her why she changed parts of her story, saying some of the dates in her statements to police didn’t match up. He also asked Stadler about statements she made to police implicating VanCallis because she was afraid of losing her children.

Stadler admitted she was “scared to death “ of losing her children, and her statements might have come across as conflicting because she is “nervous” and that “James said he was going to get me in trouble.”

Sheikh also asked Stadler why she didn’t tell police about VanCallis’ alleged statements about the K-Swiss shoes. Stadler, a 28-year-old mother of three, admitted she was afraid of VanCallis and “nervous” about talking to so many people about the case.

Also testifying Friday was a Michigan State Police telephone and computer expert who testified Friday that a search of VanCallis’ computer turned up searches for how to talk to young girls.

Michigan State Police telephone expert Wade Higgason said searches on VanCallis’ computer included “how to get the girl” and “how to attract younger women.”

Under cross-examination, Sheikh asked Higgason if those searches included “how to kidnap ... how to murder ... how to entice.”

Higgason responded no.

Witnesses have placed Millsap talking to a man they described as VanCallis about two hours before her body was found.

The trial is being heard before Macomb Circuit Judge Mary Chrzanowski. Testimony continues Tuesday.

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