The key to the April Millsap case is her dog, Penny

Sad story: 14 year-old girl murdered about 45 minutes north of Detroit. A composite sketch has been released, though (of course, the sketch looks terrifying; you can view it on that link in the first sentence). Let’s start with the car clues:

Police said last week that they were also searching for a long, gray “painter’s-type” box van with dents all over it that was spotted in the area. They are also hoping to speak with the two men seen inside, reports CBS Detroit.

They’ve also reportedly received tips about a small blue and white motorcycle with a young male rider wearing a black helmet seen on the trail around the time Millsap is believed to have been murdered.

That could mean something, or could mean nothing; a van with dents is sketchy, sure, but it doesn’t mean a crime happened there. Same with the motorcycle.

However, take the “two men inside” thing above and combine it with this:

Now it’s a little bit dicier.

However, the dog in this case is probably the true key. Dog’s name was Penny, and April Millsap walked her every night along the same trail (generally) — obviously that allows for someone to have potentially scoped out the situation. But there’s this:

Armada Police Chief Howard Smith told Click on Detroit that Millsap’s dog stayed with her body until the two joggers passed by at around 8:20 on Thursday evening. The joggers realized something was amiss when the dog approached them. “They thought the dog was trying to attack them,” Lt. Michael Shaw of Michigan State Police told reporters. The dog returned to the drainage ditch and then back to the joggers. That is how April’s body was discovered.
Ostensibly, then, the dog was present during the attack. Here’s why that could be relevant: if this is the type of dog that two joggers instantly thought was going to “attack them,” and the type of dog loyal enough to stay with a body for hours, then the dog probably would have caused some commotion while a potential attack was going on. Hence … could the attacker have been someone the dog was more familiar with? (Dogs are pretty good at people context.) Or could it have been someone who did something to distract the dog? (That would go back to the idea of knowing April Millsap’s routine.)

“It sounds like physical abuse because my daughter (April’s mother) said her face was bruised pretty badly. We feel it was someone she knew,” Dennis Levans said in a brief telephone interview from Coconut Creek, Fla., where he resides with his wife, Jackie.

Here’s a bit more context on Macomb Orchard Trail, where Millsap was walking with the dog. Here’s a bit more on the background of the family, and here’s a good person to follow on Twitter if you want more real-time updates in this case:

Ted Bauer