VanCallis defense questions lack of evidence in Millsap murder

The coroner gives the report on the death of teen April Millsap in court.

- The murder trial of James VanCallis, the man accused of killing 14-year-old April Millsap, continued Tuesday with the prosecution laying out evidence against the murder suspect including gruesome pictures from the crime scene.

Police testified that April's body was found in a heavily wooded area along the Macomb Orchard Trail in Armada in 2014 and showed drone video the jury.

The Macomb County deputy medical examiner testified that Millsap's attacker likely stood on her neck for three to five minutes. 

The prosecution held the motorcycle helmet  belonging to 34-year-old James VanCallis, on trial for kidnapping, murdering, and attempting to sexually assault April, who died of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation. 

"The helmet was impacting soft tissues," said Dr. Mary Pietrangelo, Macomb County Deputy Medical Examiner. "The helmet is much harder than the soft tissue."

But the defense was asking Tuesday if the helmet was used to attack April and a thorough investigation was done, where is the DNA evidence? 

"If she went down quickly after being struck in the head by some object," Pietrangelo said. "She maybe would not have been able to fight back in any way that would be able to accumulate that type of DNA evidence."

Armada Police Chief Howard Smith was on the stand and explained that 34-year-old VanCallis became a suspect the murder, kidnapping and attempted sexual assault after police dug through roughly a thousand tips.

"There was one from a neighbor that called in regards to the motorcycle and that they used to see him regularly on it but they hadn't seen him on it in a while probably because we had it," Smith said.

An eyewitness described the man and a sketch was put together. When that was released, police received tips that the man they looking for may be VanCallis.

They also received tips on his helmet and a blue and white motorcycle spotted on home surveillance. Another witness said VanCallis was seen wearing a different type of shoe than he told police.

"The imprints on the victim's neck were so significant and vivid that we felt that if we could find those shoes, then we could match it up. But we couldn't find the shoes," Smith said.

The defense took the prosecution to task over the composite sketch.

They argued it was made from only one witness and brought tips that it resembled other people, not just VanCallis.

Prosecutors showed jurors a similar pair of shoes they say VanCallis was seen wearing on social media.

However, the defense argues those aren't his shoes and said they're not an exact match to the tread marks on Aprils' neck.

But their biggest argument came down to DNA. Smith testified that there was no DNA evidence found to connect VanCallis to April.

The trial continues Wednesday with surveillance video expected to be released.

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