MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A cousin of Muskegon County murder suspect Jeffrey Willis has been formally charged with lying to police in connection to Jessica Heeringa’s disappearance.
Kevin Lavern Bluhm, 47, was arraigned Tuesday in Muskegon District Court on one count of lying to a peace officer during a violent crime investigation.
Prosecutors say Bluhm lied when he said he had “no knowledge about Jeffrey Willis’ involvement in the abduction of Heeringa.”
“I can assure the court that the lies involved here are not about insignificant details,” Muskegon County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Roberts said during the arraignment.
He said they involved details about the Heeringa investigation that Bluhm could have gotten only from his first cousin, Willis — details that have not been made public.
“This is an ongoing investigation that involves … three very serious matters: kidnapping, the murder of Rebekah Bletsch, as well as the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa,” Roberts said. “Investigators are still working to determine the validity of the information that Mr. Bluhm has given us and to what extent that means that Mr. Willis was involved in these other cases.”
Prosecutors pushed for a high bond for Bluhm, fearing he could jeopardize the investigation if released.
“Mr. Bluhm may present a threat to damaging or removing evidence that may be associated with that case,” Roberts told the court.
“I have 20 years in the Department of Corrections; I wouldn’t jeopardize anything. I messed up,” Bluhm said in court.
He has been suspended without pay from his job as a sergeant at the West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon.
The judge set Bluhm’s bond at $100,000 and ordered that he wear a tether if he posts bond and is released.
Police were seen searching a piece of property on Beattie Road in Dalton Township in Muskegon County earlier Tuesday. A neighbor confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 that police said they searched it in connection to the disappearance of Heeringa, although multiple police agencies have not yet confirmed details about the search. Crews left the search site empty-handed.
Heeringa, then 25, went missing on the night of April 26, 2013 in Norton Shores. She was last seen working at her job at the Exxon Mobil gas station on Sternberg Road and left behind her phone, purse and money.
The prosecutor on Tuesday continued to call Willis a person of interest in Heeringa’s disappearance, not a suspect. A police source says investigators don’t have enough evidence to charge him in the case.
In an affidavit obtained by 24 Hour News 8, Michigan State Police said they were interviewing Bluhm on May 18, the day after they arrested Willis in the kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl who managed to escape by jumping from a moving vehicle. MSP said Bluhm lied to them in that first interview, saying he hadn’t seen Willis since July 2015 and that he’d never seen him with a handgun. Despite that alleged lie, Willis was later charged with Bletsch’s murder.
In addition to the charges he faces for Bletsch’s murder, Willis is charged with kidnapping and assault for the attempted abduction of the teen girl, and with several counts connected to the creation and possession of child pornography.