Left: April circa 1986 Right: Age Progressed to age 33
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: December 13, 1986 from Rancho, Riverside County, California
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: May 13, 1979
Age: 7 years old
Height and Weight: 4’6″; 60 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, April was missing her upper front teeth at the time of her 1986 disappearance
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white leotard, a lavender dress, a white sweater, and white leather dress shoes
Circumstances of Disappearance
April Ann Cooper was last seen in Rancho, California on December 13th 1986. She was walking to an arcade at Woodchuck RV Campground where she lived with her mother. At the time, April was being babysat by her neighbor, William James Bannister. He offered to watch the girl since her mother had to work. He stated that he gave April approximately $5 to play video games. She apparently never returned home. She has not been seen or heard from since.
Bannister was a truck driver from Colorado in 1986. The day after April vanished, Bannister showed up to his fathers wedding reception. His cloths were covered in dirt. He claimed that the dirt on his cloths was from him participating in the search for April. He did not actually join the search.
Bannister murdered his girlfriend in 1978 and served 5 years in prison for charges of 2nd degree murder. He was released two years before April’s disappearance in 1984. In 1993, 7 years after April’s disappearance, Bannister attempted to strangle his sons 14 year old girlfriend in the backseat of his truck. Authorities searched his truck they found various bloodstained cloths and other items.
In 1995, Bannister was charged with April’s presumed murder. Authorities believe that Bannister killed April as part of a sexual fantasy he had. They believe he hid her remains afterwards. He was extradited from Colorado to California for his trial. Bannister was convicted of her murder in 1998 and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Bannister stated that April died because she broke her neck after falling onto a rock while they were hiking together. April’s body has never been located and Bannister remains the prime suspect in her disappearance.
April’s case remains unsolved and foul play is suspected.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Riverside County Sheriffs Office 714-674-2183
NCMEC Number: 600818