MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Jessica Heeringa’s best friend says she was relieved after learning Jeffrey Willis’ cousin is charged with lying to police in connection to the case.
Friends and family hope whatever information Kevin Bluhm may have been harboring could help find Heeringa or lead to Willis, who is already charged with a separate kidnapping and a murder, being charged in the case.
“I was worried for this whole three years that they were just going to never find anything out. And to know that it’s like hopeful that they’re really going to come up with something and connect this guy (Willis) and prosecute him for it,” Elizabeth Lunsford said.
Heeringa and Lunsford became friends in 2005 when they met while working at Sam’s Joint in Norton Shores, which has since closed. Lunsford said they became inseparable. But it became difficult to see Heeringa because, Lunsford says, Heeringa’s boyfriend was controlling. Still, Lunsford said she found ways to see Heeringa at the Norton Shores gas station where she worked.
Lunsford visited Heeringa at work on April 26, 2013, the night police say she was abducted. She has replayed the night over and over in her mind.
“I was at the gas station like three hours before she went missing, hanging out with her, and she was totally normal, everything was fine,” Lunsford recalled. “While I was there, I saw her talking to somebody in a gray minivan who sort of looked similar to this guy (Willis). But I can’t be for sure.”
Lunsford said the gray minivan was parked at a gas pump. Heeringa and the man were both laughing and talking as she got him a receipt.
Interactions like that were common for Heeringa, Lunsford said.
“She had a lot of guys that would come in and talk to her for longer than a normal customer would talk to her and that did worry me a little bit,” she said.
Willis has been named a person of interest in the Heeringa case. He owns a silver minivan similar to the one police were searching for in connection to Heeringa’s disappearance; his co-workers said he frequented her gas station, which is between his home and workplace; and a source said he wasn’t at work in the days following her disappearance.
Still, police have said they don’t have enough evidence to charge him in a case.
“My gut says he did it,” Lunsford said. “I mean he’s connected with the gray van thing, these other girls already, so it will be quite a coincidence if there’s another gray van … abducting girls in this area.”
Lunsford said she wonders if her best friend is still alive being held hostage somewhere or if she was killed three years ago.
“I just really want them to connect something, you know, find out what happened to her,” she said.