A Michigan convicted of murder was sentenced to life in prison on Dec. 18. He is also suspected of serial sexual predation and the murder of other victims.
Jeffrey Willis received a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch, whom he shot while the victim was jogging, in what may have been a kidnap attempt, ABC13 reported.
Willis has been tied to other attempted abductions and disappearances, including the abduction and murder of Jessica Heeringa, who was taken from her job at a gas station in 2013. He faces trial for those crimes.
Willis was convicted on Nov. 2 in Muskegon County Circuit Court of the murder of Rebekah Bletsch. After a ten-day trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict in only 90 minutes.
Willis avoided having to face the family of his victim at sentencing. His defense attorney requested that Willis be returned to jail before Bletsch’s family testified about the pain his crime had caused them.
As he left the courtroom, Willis blew a kiss at the people in the courtroom. Some spectators called out, “Coward” as he exited the room.
Abduction and Murder
Rebekah Bletsch was shot four times in the head while jogging down Automobile Road in rural Muskegon County, Michigan on June 29, 2014, the Detriot Free Press reported.
At first, Bletsch was reported as the victim of a hit-and-run, but a closer examination showed otherwise.
Dr. Brandy Shattuck, who performed the autopsy, said Bletsch had bruises around her eyes and abrasions on her face and wrists.
A witness who saw Bletsch at the scene said her shirt was pulled up slightly and her jogging pants pulled down slightly, WoodTV reported.
Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said Willis tried to lure Bletsch into his van. Failing that he tried to force her, and failing that, shot her.
“At the time Bletsch was murdered not only did he intend to kill her but he also intended to abduct her,” Hilson stated.
The defense stipulated Bletsch was shot from behind while fleeing the scene.
When Police searched Jeffrey Willis’ silver minivan, they found an abduction kit. In a locked toolbox in the van police found gags, handcuffs, chains, various related items, syringes, and two video cameras.
Willis’s silver minivan was first connected with the abductions when a witness and surveillance video saw it leaving a gas station in Norton Shores on the night of April 20, 2013.
A 25-year-old mother, Jessica Heeringa, who worked at the station, disappeared at the same time the van was seen leaving.
In April 2016, a 16-year-old girl reported an abduction attempt by a man in a silver minivan. She claimed she got into his van to use his cell phone, then jumped out and ran when he pulled a gun on her. The girl later identified Willis from a photo array.
A month later, on May 13 and 14, 2016, police obtained warrants to search Willis’s house and vehicle.
In August of that year, Willis’s cousin, Kevin Bluhm, pleaded guilty to lying to the police about being involved in the Heeringa murder. He admitted he had helped Willis dispose of the body.
Willis is scheduled to go on trial for the abduction and murder of Jessica Heeringa on March 6, 2018.