MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. – The man convicted of killing 14-year-old April Millsap as she walked her dog on a trail in Armada maintained his innocence Wednesday all the way up to the moment a judge sentenced him to spend the rest of his life in prison.
"There is no evidence that shows I have done anything wrong," James VanCallis told the court. “This is a sad chain of events that I’m somehow wrapped up in.”
A jury in February found the 34-year-old guilty of murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual assault in the death of April Millsap.
Prosecutors said the St. Clair County man hit the teen with a motorcycle helmet and stomped on her in July 2014 while she was with her dog, Penny, along the Macomb Orchard Trail. A passerby found the dog, which led them to Millsap's body.
"I don't know why you did what you did ... you stole from my family," Millsap's mother, Jennifer, said. "I pity you. I hate you, and I can never forgive you."
VanCallis' attorney had argued there was no DNA evidence linking his client to the killing. However, after the trial, jury foreman Doug Scott said there was enough "damning evidence" to convict VanCallis, despite the case being largely circumstantial.
Prosecutor Eric Smith also said the right man is behind bars.
“His phone puts him there. The pings on his phone put him there,” Smith said.
VanCallis' mother, Brenda Pupi, said she will fight to get her son released.
“My son was framed. Yes, sir. I believe it with all my heart … I will put my hand to God that these officers framed my son because they had to get somebody," Pupi said.
"I wasn't able to properly defend myself in this case," VanCallis said.
Judge Mary Chrzanowski told him he had the right appeal.
Special section: The Murder of April Millsap