WHITE CLOUD, Mich. (WOOD) - An arrest has been made in connection with an 8-year-old murder case in Newaygo County.
Amanda Lankey, 13, of White Cloud was found murdered in the Manistee National Forest in July 2004. She had disappeared two weeks earlier while spending the night at a friend's home.
Amanda's mother, Victoria Foster, told 24 Hour News 8 the arrest is tied to her daughter's death.
Michigan State Police arrested 45-year-old Candace Wallis-Baumgartner the morning of Aug. 22 on two counts of making false statements during investigative subpoena testimony. She posted bond and was released from custody until her official arraignment. She could spend the rest of her life in prison if she is convicted.
At a probable cause hearing, it was revealed that authorities accuse Wallis-Baumgartner of lying twice under oath in an investigative subpoena in May.
Authorities say that Wallis-Baumgartner said she had never falsified a police report, which they say was a lie. Authorities say she was fired from her position with the Mecosta County Sheriff's Office in 1999 after knowingly and intentionally falsifying a police report about a drunken-driving crash involving her brother, Cecil Wallis Sr., in order to protect him.
They also said she lied about whether she had been asked to assist with investigating the scene where Amanda was found in 2004. They said Wallis-Baumgartner told authorities under oath that she had never been asked to assist at that scene. Other officers said she had been asked to help and had refused.
When 24 Hour News 8 knocked on Wallis-Baumgartner's front door the day after her arrest to get her side of the story, the television was on and voices could be heard inside her residence, but no one came to the door.
Marcus Wallis, Wallis-Baumgartner's son, is also named in the warrant for perjury during investigative subpoena. He was called in on a subpoena on May 30, the day after his mother.
Authorities said he lied about whether Cecil Wallis Sr.'s son, Cecil Wallis Jr., was living with him. Records show he claimed Wallis Jr. was not living with him. Investigators say Wallis Jr. said he was living with Marcus Willis.
In the fall 2011, when Wallis Sr. was in custody on criminal sexual conduct charges, Marcus Wallis visited him in the jail. Records show that he asked Wallis where one of the CSC victims was located. Authorities say they asked Marcus Wallis about that question while he was under oath and he said he had not asked about one of the victims.
Newaygo County Prosecutor Robert Springstead would not rule out the possibility that more civilian witnesses could be charged with giving false testimony.
Foster said she received a call from investigators on Aug. 22 informing her of Wallis-Baumgartner's arrest. Foster said she does not think Wallis-Baumgartner was present when Amanda was killed.
"I don't believe that she killed her, no, but I do believe she knows who did," Foster told 24 Hour News 8 in a phone interview. "I believe, like I have said, the whole time I believe that somehow and in some way she knew exactly what happened to my daughter. In some ways I believe she helped cover it up."
Wallis-Baumgartner was previously a White Cloud City Council member and a part-time police officer, White Cloud Mayor Don Barnhard confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 late Wednesday.
"She was actually on the team of police officers that came to my home to tell me that they had found her body," Foster said.
"Alleged false statements made by a former police officer reinforce certain segments of society's lack of trust in law enforcement," Springstead said in a statement Aug. 23. "By investigating these charges, law enforcement is making the statement that they are willing to hold fellow officers accountable, and that they are committed to identifying Amanda Lankey's killer."
At the time of his death, Wallis Sr. was facing charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with teenagers from 1998 to 2002.
Wallis- Baumgartner is Wallis' sister. Foster said she maintains a belief that he is responsible for the murder.
"When Amanda went missing, we knew something wasn't right, we all knew she didn't run away. The first few days after, there is so much going on you don't know how to feel. All I knew is that the police were out looking for her, everybody was out looking for her," Foster recalled Wednesday. "As time went by, things started to come together. People started to talk. People started to act differently. You seen how they were acting and that is when we knew Amanda didn't run away. Something happened in that house."
Family members said in June at the eighth annual vigil for Amanda that they believed it would be the last time they would gather to hope for an arrest. The Lankey family said it believed this year the slain teen would "finally get justice."
"Police have been working
very hard, very hard. A lot has taken place. New officers have come on board, we have gotten a new prosecutor, people that aren't afraid to do their jobs. They have been working very hard to close this case," Foster said Wednesday. "Maybe we are in the home stretch."
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