MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of Rebekah Bletsch was very emotional as they learned that a man is facing charges in her murder nearly two years later
“It’s been a rough couple years, but we’ve had our faith and trust in law enforcement and they haven’t let us down,” said Rebekah’s father as he held a photo of her at a news conference Wednesday morning.
On June 29, 2014, neighbors found Bletsch alongside Automobile Road in Dalton Township, where she often jogged. The 36-year-old wife and mother had been shot three times in the back of the head, according to her death certificate. Bletsch also had bruises on her wrists, ankles, back and leg.
“She put up a fight. That was our sister. Head to toe. There’s no doubt about it. She just lost the battle,” said Rebekah’s sister Nicole Winberg.
Jeffrey Willis will be charged with open murder and felony firearm in connection to the June 2014 killing, according to the arrest warrant issued Wednesday.
“It’s a dangerous person that we don’t have to fear anymore,” said Rebekah’s sister Jessica Josephson.
Willis was already in jail for the abduction of a 16-year-old Fruitland Township girl who able to escape by jumping out of his moving van.
“Thank God this girl had the guts to jump. If it wasn’t for her, we’d still be looking and wondering,” said Rebekah’s mom Debra Reamer. “I just want to say thank you to her.”
“She’s a brave, brave little girl. Proud of her, as a mother. My heart goes out to that little girl. She really is a hero to many people right now. She did a good thing. She did a really good thing,” said Josephson.
“It’s a dangerous person that we don’t have to fear anymore,” Rebekah’s sister said.
Following a search of Willis’ van, police found lock boxes containing handcuffs, chains, ropes, syringes, photos of women bound and gagged and a .22-caliber pistol. Ballistics testing on the gun matched shell casings found near Bletsch’s body, according to court documents.
“The more you learn about that man, the harder it is to mentally wrap your mind around what she went through. What his intentions were and why. Why her?” said Josephson.
“Since the beginning I’ve also thought it was a random act. Now seeing the individual, I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered him or believe she has,” Winberg said.
Rebekah was the oldest girl in her family. Her two younger sisters described her as “motherly.”
“She taught me how to do my hair. She taught me how to do my makeup. She was everything I wanted to be. I lost my role model and my hero,” said Winberg trying to hold back tears.
“I hear people say closure all the time. We lost our sister. There is no closure. That empty spot is always going to be there. Closure is the wrong word. Answers. Yes. Getting them and we hope to get more,” Winberg said in a shaky voice.
“I hear people say closure all the time. We lost our sister. There is no closure.”
At the press conference, Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson thanked the Bletsch family for their patience while investigators worked on the case.
“They have been very patient and they have waited a long time for this day. And I can only imagine what it’s been like for the last couple of years,” said Hilson. “I’m pleased to hopefully start them down the road of closure.”
“This is a good day. We’re on the road to resolution. We lost a wonderful person, and it was a brutal murder,” said Rebekah’s father before thanking supporters and investigators.
Rebekah’s family also said they are grateful to have the support of their community.
“We come from a great community, we’ve had tremendous support and it’s only fair that we have a voice for our sister, for our family. We owe the community a lot, they’ve been very supportive,” said Winberg.
Willis has also been named a person of interest in the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa who vanished April 26, 2013 from her job at a gas station on Sternberg Road in Norton Shores.
Rebekah’s family had this advice for Heeringa’s family: Don’t lose hope.
“Keep the strength. It’s been tough, but we’ve pulled through,” said Reamer.
Diane Homrich, Heeringa’s grandmother, told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that her family was “very glad” the Bletsch family has “resolution.”
“We will keep them in our prayers and wish them well,” she continued.