Details of Disappearance April was last seen leaving her family's residence on Orchard Drive in Montville, Connecticut during the early morning hours of May 29, 1996. She climbed through her brother's window and planned to meet friends, but she never returned home. Her mother discovered her missing at 5:30 a.m. when she went to wake her for school. The window was left open and one of April's stuffed animals was tucked in the bed.
April was picked up by a 15-year-old classmate, Patrick J. "P.J." Allain, and a 30-year-old man, George Leniart, after she left her home. Photographs of both of them are posted with this case summary.
Allain later stated he, Leniart and April went into the woods, drank beer and smoked marijuana that night. He stated he and Leniart both had consensual sex with April. Later, he changed his story and said he and Leniart had raped her and Leniart had planned to murder her.
Allain told investigators that he became nervous when he realized Leniart planned to kill April. He said Leniart dropped him off at his house and left with April, and he did not know what happened to her after that. Allain said he and April had sneaked out of their homes at night to meet each other before, and that they had had sex before.
Leniart was awaiting trial for raping a thirteen-year-old girl when April disappeared in 1996; he was later convicted. In 2007, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
Leniart told investigators he knew Allain, but he later denied this. In fact, he and Allain were longtime friends. He also denied having ever met April, but it was proven that he called her house five times on the day of her disappearance.
April's mother never believed her daughter ran away. There was $950 in cash in the house for the family's rent payment on the night April disappeared and she knew where it was, but she did not take it when she left her home. She also took no personal belongings with her, not even her purse. She was originally thought to have taken her black bookbag, but it was later found in her locker at school.
April had sneaked out of her home before, but she was always back in bed by morning. She had broken up with her boyfriend a few days prior to her disappearance and was so upset that she reportedly threatened to commit suicide. April's father denies that she had any real mental health issues, however, and described her as an attention seeker.
A family friend, James Adrian Butler, told authorities that he spoke to April for fifteen to thirty minutes at a Blockbuster video rental store in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1999. He didn't realize at the time that she had been reported missing.
Butler stated he didn't recognize April until she introduced herself, and that she looked haggard, as if she had been abusing drugs. He said she was accompanied by a toddler while he spoke to her, and that they stopped talking after a man in his late twenties walked into the store and insisted April leave without renting a movie.
Butler told the Penningtons about seeing their daughter after they called him three weeks after the alleged sighting. Investigators later found out he had suffered memory loss from a traumatic brain injury, and they have discounted his story.
In April 2008, Leniart, who was still incarcerated for the 2007 sexual assault conviction, was charged with capital murder, kidnapping and sexual assault in April's case. Although Allain admitted he had raped April on the night of her supposed murder, he cannot be prosecuted for the assault because the statute of limitations has passed. He is currently serving a ten-year sentence for an unrelated sexual crime.
He testified against Leniart at his trial, stating Leniart told him about April's murder in detail. Leniart allegedly claimed he had choked April to death in the woods near Mohegan School and put her body in a lobster trap.
The defense attempted to undermine Allain's credibility by bringing up his criminal record and the many different stories he told about April's disappearance. Several other informants, most of them criminals who were offered leniency in exchange for their cooperation, also testified against Leniart and said he had confessed the murder to them also. The girl who was raped by Leniart before April vanished testified about his assault against her.
Leniart was convicted of all charges against him in March 2010 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In June 2016, however, his conviction was overturned on appeal. He is now awaiting a second trial.
April's family moved to Montville in 1994; her father, a mechanic, was transferred to the area by the United States Navy. They were planning to move again to New Jersey, which April was unhappy about because she did not want to leave her friends. She was enrolled in Montville High School as a freshman.
She had been a good student, but she started getting poor grades in 1996 and she argued with her parents over it. Her parents knew she had tried marijuana and had deliberately cut herself on two occasions. Her mother believes that her daughter was involved with a rough crowd at the time of her 1996 disappearance.
However, her mother stated she believed her daughter was just going through a normal rebellious phase and was not having any serious problems. Her friends described her as a normal teenager who made friends easily.
April's father has since retired from the Navy and her parents have moved to North Carolina. Some agencies state that April vanished from Uncasville, Connecticut. Her body was not been recovered, but foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.
- Connecticut State Police
Updated 10 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated June 14, 2016; details of disappearance updated.