A Michigan man who had been released from jail on $100,000 bond while awaiting trial on rape charges murdered the 16-year-old girl who had been expected to testify against him, the authorities said Wednesday.
But she went missing in January and was later discovered dead about 50 miles from her home.
In addition to premeditated first-degree murder, James has also been charged with kidnapping and conspiracy, said Christopher Becker, the prosecuting attorney for Kent County.
Prosecutors have also charged a second man, Gerald Bennett, with one count of conspiracy, Becker said. They say Bennett, of Detroit, received a vehicle from James as payment for assisting with the murder — and possibly the disposal of Mujey’s body.
In a statement of probable cause made public on Wednesday, prosecutors say forensic testing “ties James to the victim’s clothing.” They also allege that James “lied to investigators about his whereabouts on the day the victim was taken and killed.”
Prosecutors also say they have records placing James close to Mujey’s home and bus stop the night before she disappeared. On the day she went missing, Jan. 24, they say, images show a black GMC Acadia sport utility vehicle near where the body was later found; James had taken a black Acadia SUV on loan from a dealership that same day, they say.
A lawyer for James did not return a telephone message seeking comment on Wednesday. Becker would not comment on the evidence in the case beyond what was stated in the affidavit.
Court documents allege that James sexually assaulted Mujey at Ridge Park Charter Academy, a charter school in Kentwood, Michigan, last July. Mujey attended East Kentwood High School, about 8 miles from Ridge Park.
James was employed as a grounds and maintenance crew member with Kentwood Public Schools — of which East Kentwood High is a part — until late last year, the district’s superintendent has said. The school district became aware of the alleged assault in mid-November, the superintendent said, noting that the district investigated the claim and subsequently fired James.
James was arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, but was released in late November or early December on $100,000 bail, Becker said.
“It’s not an unsubstantial amount,” Becker said of the bond on Wednesday. “Most people don’t make that. At the time it was issued, that seemed to be a sufficient amount.”
Mujey had been expected to testify at James’ trial, which had been scheduled for April 9.
But early on the morning of Jan. 24, prosecutors say, Mujey left her home in Grand Rapids to catch a school bus.
“She never got on the bus, never went to school, and was never seen again,” prosecutors wrote in the statement of probable cause.
Four days later Mujey’s body was discovered in a wooded area of Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 50 miles south of where she had boarded the bus. The Kalamazoo police initially reported Mujey as a possible runaway, but the authorities later labeled the death a homicide by suffocation and strangulation.
On Feb. 1, James was arrested in Wyoming, Michigan, where he lives, in an unrelated case in which he is also accused of sexual offenses against a minor, according to court records. Jail records show that he was booked that day and has since been held at the Kent County jail with bail set at $500,000.
The Associated Press reported, and jail records appear to show, that the bond in the case involving Mujey has been increased to $250,000.
“When I set the $100,000 bond, Mujey was alive,” Kentwood District Judge William Kelly said last month, according to AP.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mujey’s mother, Fatmata Corneh, said she wanted to tell James: “You have no idea what you have put me and my family through. You broke us into pieces.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.