EXCLUSIVE: Unraveling the connection between person of interest & April Millsap murder investigation

ARMADA, Mich. (WXYZ) - Since James Donald VanCallis Jr. was named the sole person of interest in the April Millsap murder case, the 7 Action News Investigators have exclusively uncovered his close ties to the Village of Armada, Millsap's hometown. Learning, VanCallis Jr., was likely very familiar with the area where April was found, and possibly, April herself.

The Investigators learned among other things, VanCallis Jr.'s 14 year old son is a student at Armada Area Schools, and was classmates with April Millsap at Armada Middle School this past year.

Sources within the school say the two were friends. The child is said to now be estranged from his father.

 

Unraveling the Connection

 

In family photos---James Donald Vancallis Jr. looks like any other 32 year old. A doting father---a loving son and brother.

But The Investigators have found---he has a troubled past.

Tuesday--he appeared in an orange prison suit, facing drug charges, stemming from a past raid at his family's Goodells home.

But police weren't there looking for drugs. Nor when they stormed the home a second time this past Monday.

"If we didn't have a good search warrant--we wouldn't be there," said Lt. Michael Shaw with MSP.

VanCallis Jr.'s lawyer says he has nothing to do with the teen's murder.

"He is a wonderful person," said attorney Dean Ankouny.

But wonderful is far from how those who knew VanCallis Jr. growing up describe him.

The Investigators spoke with multiple people who knew VanCallis Jr. as a child to adulthood.

And for the first time--we are uncovering his startling ties to the place where April Millsap lived and died.

Aside from his son attending school with April, we've learned Vancallis Jr. grew up in Armada, on a farm, not far from the jogging trail where April's body was found.

He attended Armada Area Schools from Kindergarten through 10th Grade---even going to the same middle school April attended, although years earlier.

His last stop--Armada Area High School.

Sources tell The Investigators VanCallis was a troubled student. In 2 years of high school, he only accumulated 3 credits. And spent much of his time suspended.

Sources say he eventually dropped out.

Things didn't appear to get better for VanCallis Jr.

In 2005 and 2006 he was charged with failing to pay child support and breaking and entering.

His current relationship status is a question mark. We know he was living with his father at the Goodells home when arrested.

But his ties and trips to Armada--a 25 minute or so drive from Goodells, apparently hadn't stopped.

Time-stamped pictures uncovered by The Investigators show he was in or near armada in recent months. Former classmates report seeing him around town too.

His familiarity and ties to April's hometown is no doubt troubling to investigators. But key in their investigation.

 

Latest on the investigation

 

Police say VanCallis Jr. has not been cooperating with investigators. Something his lawyer denies.

Police also want to know what others living in that home know--if anything. When Action News tried repeatedly to speak with them, they declined comment.

As for the searches at the Goodells home--Action News has learned one of the key pieces of evidence police and the FBI have been looking for is boots or shoes, that may match foot prints found on April's body.

We've also learned---days after April's death--FBI agents searched a nearby landfill---going through what is believed to be trash from the VanCallis home. Evidence was collected--but more is needed sources say, to close the case.

Meanwhile--April Millsap's mother tells Action News, she has been kept in the dark about what has been found and just how close police are to really solving her daughter's murder.

Finally, we learned late Thursday, prosecutors have been meeting about the case---the command center in Armada has been virtually shuttered--and police are at the point where they have nothing more to say---until an announcement is made.

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