HAZEL PARK, Mich. – A Hazel Park man was in court Friday for a preliminary hearing for the murder of a 21-year-old woman found wrapped and hidden in the attic of his home.
Jordan McClanahan, 23, is charged with first-degree murder after police said he “implicated himself” in Jessica Leigh White’s death. He allegedly told them where they could find her body.
An autopsy determined White’s death was a homicide and the cause was “strangulation by ligature.” The autopsy also showed her body was violated physically and sexually after she was killed. McClanahan also faces a desecration of a body charge.
White, of Troy, was last seen April 23 in Troy and texted her mother she was at a friend’s house in Hazel Park.
McClanahan was bound over for trial.
3 witnesses take stand at preliminary hearing
Dr. Ljubisa Jovan Dragovic, the medical examiner, was the first to take the stand and describe his findings in the autopsy. He described the state of White’s body as it was found.
Dragovic described the ligature marks on the neck and said there was post-mortem mutilation of the finger tips on both hands.
He said there were no defense wounds on the body.
Hazel Park Police Officer Mark Westenberg took the stand and spoke about the day Jessica White’s body was found.
Westenberg was dispatched to a Hazel Park address for a welfare check May 3. He noticed a dresser that was moved from a wall. A half-door behind the dresser led to an attic. White’s body was found wrapped in a blue tarp.
"At the south end of the crawl space was the blue tarp where the victim was at, pinched to where the floor and roof connected," Westenberg said.
Westenberg said the tarp was being held together with duct tape and cable wire.
Troy Police Officer Christine Shuler was the last witness to speak at the preliminary hearing. She was assigned as the officer in charge of the missing person report for White.
Shuler discussed her interviews with McClanahan. She described the last text message that was sent from White’s cellphone and the content of that message indicated it was from McClanahan.
She said he told her multiple versions of what happened to White. He told Shuler that they had drinks at his house and that he was using drugs.
Shuler said that McClanahan confessed to strangling White. Shuler also said that he told her that he had post-mortem sexual intercourse and cut off all 10 of White’s fingertips with a bolt cutter.
“He indicated that he went to retrieve a white belt of his, and that he went over, and then described how she was lying on the bed, and he went over and took the belt, kind of put it in a, I guess I’ll describe it as a loop, and then pulled it tight in front of the neck area for approximately two to three minutes until she was deceased and then indicated that he had sexual intercourse with her after that,” Shuler said.
Father says he found the body
Mike McClanahan said his son Jordan was with White in their Hazel Park home the day before she went missing.
The father said they were having mixed drinks but that Jordan was also taking pills for back pain – pills that were not prescribed to him.
“I don’t think he remembers anything. He done them drugs and drank on top of it and something happened to him,” Mike McClanahan said.
According to police, White last texted her mother at 2:40 a.m. that said: "Jordan's dad is cussing him out, this is awkward." Her mother didn't see the message until she woke up in the morning and by then, White's phone was off.
After police had been through the house, Mike McClanahan said his son Jordan was ready to get something off his chest.
“’Something’s wrong, dad, something’s wrong.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I might have done something bad, dad,’” Mike McClanahan said.
Mike McClanahan and his older son searched the house again and said they found the body when they looked in the crawl space. The body was wrapped in a tarp.
Alleged killer longtime friend with White
According to Jordan McClanahan’s father, Jordan and Jessica had been friends since they were 8 years old.
“I feel so bad for Jessica’s mother and dad, because I thought (Jordan) was telling the truth,” Mike McClanahan said.
Police said Jordan McClanahan confessed to strangling Jessica White with a belt.
Family, friends march in purple
More than 200 people – friends, family and strangers – met three weeks after White was killed and wore purple to honor her memory.
They walked eight blocks to the home where she was found and said a prayer.
Loved ones gathered to remember the young woman and spoke of her kindness.
Children told the crowd she was their favorite babysitter and her parents thanked everyone for coming.
"Our sympathy and prayers go out to the White family and their many friends who remained diligent in their attempt to locate Jessica," Hazel Park police said in a statement.
Community searches for White
Search groups began posting flyers across southeast Michigan in hopes of finding White alive.
Crime Stoppers offered a $2,500 cash reward for information.
Search parties looked for White in Warren, northeast Detroit and Hazel Park.