The Michigan man accused of murdering 14-year-old April Millsap on July 24, 2014, said he fears for his safety while his trial continues.
The defendant, 33-year-old James VanCallis Jr., requested individual transportation to and from his trial in September due to concerns for his safety, The Macomb Daily reports.
Defense attorney Azhar Sheikh said that VanCallis faces harassment and fears physical altercations with fellow inmates when the media covers his case.
"He’s physically fearful for himself," Sheik told Judge Mary Chrzanowski at a Sept. 10 hearing, according to The Macomb Daily.
The suspect had been in the Macomb County or St. Clair County jail for more than a year and requested protective custody in August, Sheikh said.
“Certainly I don’t want any altercations and don’t want him dealing with altercations,” Chrzanowski said during the hearing.
The trial has seen numerous delays since circuit Judge James Maceroni shocked the court by disqualifying himself from the case in March for personal reasons, reports the Detroit Free Press. The trial was eventually set to begin on Sept. 15 but was then postponed until Oct. 14 after the lead attorney for the prosecution left for a different job.
VanCallis faces charges of first-degree murder, felony murder, kidnapping and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration.
Officials found the dead body of April Millsap shortly after she disappeared while walking her dog last year. Her autopsy determined that she died of blunt head trauma and asphyxia due to neck compression. Prior to her kidnapping, Millsap reportedly sent a text message to her boyfriend.
"Omg. ... I think I'm being kidnapped," said the text, according to MLive.
Three witnesses present at VanCallis' preliminary examination testified that they saw April on the trail near the time and place of her death with a man on a motorcycle, while two of those witnesses stated that the man on the motorcycle was the defendant.
Prosecutors argue that VanCallis attacked April with his motorcycle helmet, dragged her into nearby woods, and stomped on her, although Sheikh has said that there is no DNA evidence on VanCallis' helmet to support this.
Since April's death, residents of her community have tied pink ribbons around the area to pay respect and show solidarity, according to MLive. People close to her have created several charities and memorials to honor her.