ARMADA (WWJ/AP) – Police and FBI agents have been stopping vehicles entering and leaving the village of Armada as they investigate the slaying of a 14-year-old girl whose body was found in a wooded area of the southeastern Michigan community.
The searches come as the community gathers Friday at Armada’s St. Mary Mystical Rose Catholic Church for the funeral of April Millsap, who was murdered July 24 while walking her dog, Penny, along the Macomb Orchard Trail.
Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said no suspects are in custody, and they’re still searching for a person of interest who was seen on the trail where April had been walking her dog.
A resident, who only wanted to be identified as Brian, said FBI agents and police officers were stopping vehicles along Fulton Road, the village’s main street.
“They’re stopping every car both ways, and they’re taking license plate numbers, names and addresses. They’re writing all this stuff down, they have a clipboard, and they’re writing everybody’s information down. It’s not like they’re just checking and you go ahead, they’re writing everything down,” he said.
Brian said the officers, while pleasant, were very tight-lipped about why they were gathering the information. He said the slight delay wasn’t an inconvenience for him, especially if it could help police catch a murderer.
“I understand what they’re doing and maybe they’ll stumble across a person of interest,” he said. “I’d like to see them turn this guy up, so actually I’m more comfortable with the searches.”
But not everyone is keen on the searches.
“Some have questioned the legality of these stops, saying that their right to privacy is being invaded,” said WWJ’s Legal Analyst Charlie Langton. “But the U.S. Supreme Court does allow random searches of cars to assist police in solving crimes. As long as guidelines are followed and the length of detention is minimized, those checkpoints are legal.”
Investigators searched a home Wednesday in St. Clair County’s Wales Township, and authorities arrested two men there on drug charges. The home is about 13 miles east-northeast of Armada, but authorities wouldn’t say if there’s any connection to Millsap.
“This is not something you want to speculate on one way or the other, just because these two individuals were taken in on these drug charges,” Shaw said.
Millsap was reported missing by her mother the night of July 24, after she failed to return home from walking her dog. Her body was found hours later in a drainage ditch near Fulton and Depot roads after Penny, who faithfully stayed by Millsap’s side, caught the attention of joggers nearby.
Millsap’s has been ruled a homicide, although authorities have released few details about the cause — except to say she was not shot or stabbed.
According to reports, Millsap apparently sent a text message to her boyfriend, indicating she thought she was about to be abducted. The message stated “Omg. Wtf. I think I’m being kidnapped,” the Macomb Daily reported.
Investigators say the suspect is likely changing patterns in his or her daily lifestyle and might have altered his or her appearance in some way. The suspect might be demonstrating excessive interest in the case, authorities said, or may have unexpected absences from work.
Anyone with information on the case is urged to contact police at 877-616-4677. Tips may also be submitted online at www.michigan.gov/michtip.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the family for funeral expenses may do so at any Fifth Third Bank. Checks may be made to “For the benefit of April Millsap.”
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