The Michigan man who allegedly confessed to killing his longtime friend and hiding her body in his attic pleaded not guilty to first degree murder and mutilation of a body charges on Thursday.
Jordan McClanahan, 23 told a judge he was under the influence of Oxycontin and Xanax the night of the death of Jessica Leigh White, 23.
Before McClanahan’s alleged confession, White had been missing for two weeks. She was reported missing by her family on April 24 and was last seen with McClanahan the night before, police have said.
Zack Brovage, who led a community search for White when she was considered missing, tells PEOPLE White’s family became worried when they learned she didn’t show up for her babysitting job.
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Growing Up and Growing Apart
Brovage says friends of McClanahan were in shock when they heard the allegations. He and White had been friends for 13 years, but the two began to grow apart when McClanahan allegedly began to use hard drugs.
“There was a group of really close friends back in the day but as time progressed and the kids started getting older, Jordan moved into harder drugs,” Brovage tells PEOPLE. “Jessie was part of the good kids and [McClanahan] started going to the wrong sides of the tracks.” [IMAGE “1” “” “std” ]
Brovage says White and McClanahan grew closer more recently because McClanahan’s mother died last December and White was trying to be supportive. He says McClanahan was also unhappy at home with his father. “She felt sorry for [McClanahan],” Brovage tells PEOPLE.
According to Brovage, McClanahan had initially denied involvement in White’s death since she went missing. Brovage says he might have turned himself in because he was allegedly scheduled for a polygraph test and was afraid he’d fail.
Honoring Jessica’s Memory
On Thursday night, friends, family and community members held a candlelight vigil in honor of White at the local park. White’s parents, Karen and Brad, attended the vigil.
Brovage tells PEOPLE White had been babysitting for a local family with two children for about a month and had grown so close to them in that short time that they considered her part of their family.
He says he is working to keep White’s spirit alive: “Her favorite color was purple so I’m asking everybody and anybody to put up purple ribbons all over town.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for White’s funeral expenses.