The newest criminal documentary series, “Caught in the Net,” focuses on police investigations and the delivery of justice via the use of digital evidence. There are six episodes total, and each one features a new crime and the unwavering will of the police to bring the perpetrator to justice. The first episode, dubbed “A Monster in the Wood,” follows the tragic story of April Millsap, a 14-year-old teenager who was killed and raped by James Vancallis in July 2014.
The Harrowing Crime
The episode kicks off with a teenage girl trekking across the woods, unaware that she is being trailed by a predator, who later leaps at her and abducts her. A distressing 911 call made several hours later suggested that a teenage girl’s corpse was resting in the woods, far from the route, and sporting just a few articles of clothing. Detective Sergeant Rebecca MacArthur of the Michigan State Police arrives at the distressing scene to join the forensic team and the first responders. Eyewitnesses on the scene said the girl’s dog led them to the corpse. This was one of the most heartbreaking cases Detective Rebecca has ever dealt with, and she was equally emotional as she had nieces of the girl’s age; however, she put her feelings aside so she could put the murderer behind bars. Following a thorough inspection, the cops weren’t able to find any wallet or phone, prompting them to conclude that the phone might’ve contained something that the killer didn’t want to be exposed. To narrow down the suspect list, the cops began gathering details about the people she was associated with, including her friends, cousins, and uncle, since, in the majority of cases, the killer is someone close to the victim. The girl was identified as 14-year-old April, who had gone into the woods to walk her dog, Penny. April was a girl full of life who adored animals and dreamed of being a vet one day. April’s mother, Jennifer Millsap, was born with a condition called “cerebellar ataxia,” which affected her balance and her speech.
On the day of the incident, Jennifer received a call from April’s boyfriend asking her to go to the trail and informing her that April had passed. The crime scene was brutal and personal, and since most homicides are committed by romantics, Detective Rebecca decided to follow the romantic angle and brought in Austin, April’s boyfriend, for questioning. Austin revealed that he was at the McDonald’s drive-through at the time of the murder. During a search of his phone, police discovered that Austin had deleted multiple messages, which he explained away by saying that the deletions resulted from an argument he had with his girlfriend. This was a huge red flag, as this is what a suspect would do to hide the evidence, making the cops suspect him even more. The cops even took Austin’s phone to gather more incriminating evidence. Meanwhile, the autopsy revealed that April died due to blunt-force trauma to the head and neck and was even stomped on.
The McDonald’s footage revealed that Austin was indeed at the drive-through, and even a thorough analysis of his phone, including his texts and Google searches, revealed that he had nothing to do with April’s murder. A lack of leads and witnesses made April’s missing phone even more crucial to the police investigation. Stan Brew joined the investigation and immediately started scouring the town for April’s phone. After gathering the pre-requisite data for tracking a phone, Stan managed to track April’s iPhone, and it was soon dispatched to the FBI crime lab for a detailed analysis. Meanwhile, the cops also started a dedicated tip line regarding the homicide and learned that April, while she was walking Penny, was joined by a man on a motorcycle, which also happened to be at the same location where April sent her last text message. The cops managed to put together a description and released a sketch to the media to attract more tips and witnesses. On July 25, one of the cops spotted the motorcycle parked outside a home just at the edge of town. The motorcycle belonged to James, who also happened to be in Armada during that specific time stamp. James lied, but the digital evidence from his phone told a completely different story.
‘Caught In The Net’ Episode 1: Ending – Was Detective Rebecca Able To Apprehend April’s Killer?
Following the digital breadcrumbs or digital evidence, the FBI managed to extract the GPS coordinates of a fitness app and overlay them on the Google map in the form of a video. This was critical as it was going to give the cops a first-hand look at the day April was murdered. It revealed that after 6:28 p.m., April’s pace increased right after the text message, and she headed in the opposite direction, making the cops conclude that she was running away from the attacker.
The video paints a picture of how violent this attack was; it also captures the exact moment April was killed. Following that, the pace increased to 60 miles an hour, implying whoever took the device was driving a motor vehicle. The cops managed to find footage from the security camera just north of where the crime took place and noticed James’ motorcycle crossing the area at the exact time. The cops didn’t waste a second and pulled out a search warrant for James’ house and arrested him for an illegal drug operation, which was a silver lining as it would prevent him from getting away.
After a thorough analysis of James’ computer, the cops found Google searches asking tips on “how to get girls that don’t like you” and “do young girls like older men?” and many shocking snippets relevant to the subject. The phone also contained videos of young girls shopping at malls and gas stations, which only added to the creepiness factor. Police officers were also able to piece together what had happened on the day of the murder. While April was walking Penny, she was approached by James, who tried to coerce her into coming with him. After being turned down, James struck April with his motorcycle helmet, raped her, and eventually killed her. Afterward, James stole April’s phone and threw it into the woods. Even though he was smart enough to wipe out the physical DNA evidence of his bike and helmet, he could not get rid of the digital evidence that he didn’t know existed in the first place.
By using digital evidence and other evidence, James was charged with April’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison without any possibility of parole. After deliberating for less than a day, the jury concluded that James was too violent and wicked to be allowed in public.