A Michigan man was found guilty on Feb. 8 of beating a 14-year-old girl to death.
The Macomb County jury convicted James VanCallis, 34, of the kidnapping, attempted sexual assault and murder of April Millsap on July 24, 2014, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The courtroom erupted in applause, celebratory gestures, and a couple of “Amens” when the verdict was read, according to The Detroit News.
“She’s very relieved to be done with this chapter [of her life] and continue her grieving process,” Jean Persely, a supporter of the victim’s mother, Jennifer Millsap, said of her reaction to the verdict.
April was murdered while walking her dog on the Macomb Orchard Trail, the Detroit Free Press reports. She died from blunt head trauma and asphyxia because of neck compression. VanCallis reportedly dragged her into the woods, stomped and beat her to death before removing her clothes.
Based on a text sent by April to her boyfriend prior to her death, it is believed she refused VanCallis’ advances, which led to the otherwise random attack.
“I think I almost got kidnapped omfg,” April’s text read.
VanCallis’ black motorcycle helmet was the key piece of evidence used by the jury to convict him, according to The Detroit News. The police had argued that the helmet was used to kill April.
There were no fingerprints, fibers, hair, semen, cell phone records or computer activity connecting VanCallis to the murder. But witnesses had seen him on the trail before and after, and a surveillance camera recorded his motorcycle in the area.
VanCallis’ attorney said he plans to appeal.
“It was definitely more sympathy than [evidence],” attorney Azhar Sheikh said, adding that he did not regret the decision not to put his client on the stand, according to The Detroit News.
VanCallis faces life in prison without parole. He will be sentenced on March 30.