April Ann Cooper

1 AP
Left: April, circa 1986;
Right: Age-progression to age 26 (circa 2005)

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: December 13, 1986 from Rancho, California
  • Classification: Non-Family Abduction
  • Date Of Birth: May 13, 1979
  • Age: 7 years old
  • Height and Weight: 4'6, 60 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue eyes. April's upper front teeth were missing at the time of her 1986 disappearance.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white leotard, a lavender dress, a white sweater and white leather dress shoes.
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    Details of Disappearance

    April was last seen walking to an arcade at Woodchuck RV Campground in Rancho, California, on December 13, 1986. She and her mother lived there. She has never been heard from again. April was being supervised by a neighbor, William James Bannister, at the time she disappeared. Bannister was employed as a truck driver from Colorado in 1986. He had offered to babysit her when she and her mother went to work at an Old Town Temecula thrift store in Temecula, California that day. Bannister said he gave April $5 to play video games at the arcade and she never returned home.

    The day after April's disappearance, Bannister went to his father's wedding reception in dirt-caked clothes. He told the other attendees that he had gotten dirty while participating in the search for April. (In fact, he was not part of the search efforts.) He spoke to his father privately, then left the reception a short time afterward. That evening, Bannister's father told his new wife that Bannister had "done it again." Bannister had killed his girlfriend in San Diego, California in 1978, and served five years in prison for second-degree murder in that case. He was released from prison in 1984. After April's disappearance, in 1993, he tried to strangle his son's fourteen-year-old girlfriend in the back of his truck and was sentenced to sixteen years for attempted murder. When police searched the truck for evidence in that case, they found jewelry, bloodstained women's undergarments and several ligatures.

    Bannister was charged with April's presumed homicide in 1995, nine years after she disappeared. He was extradicted from Colorado to California for the trial. Investigators believed that he killed April as part of a brutal sexual fantasy, then concealed her remains. His father was deceased by then, but Bannister's son testified that, in 1989, Bannister had told him April was dead. Bannister allegedly stated April fell off a rock and broke her neck while they were hiking together. He was convicted of her murder in 1998 and sentenced to life in prison without parole in early 1999. Authorities believe he may have also been involved in the disappearance of Laurie Lucas, a Colorado woman who vanished in 1990, but he has never faced charges in that case.

    April's body has never been located. She was a first-grade student at Cottonwood Elementary School in December 1986. Foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Riverside County Sheriff's Department
    714-674-2183

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    Source Information
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    Child Protection Education Of America
    The Riverside Press-Enterprise
    The Doe Network
    The North County Times
    Colorado Bureau of Investigation

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    Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated January 29, 2013; age-progression updated.

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