Jeffrey Willis tracked for week before abduction arrest

Jeffrey Willis
Jeffrey Willis in a Muskegon County courtroom on June 22, 2016.

MUSKEGON — For up to a week before his arrest in the abduction of a 16-year-old girl, police were tracking Jeffrey Willis, fearing he would try to find new victims, according to court records obtained by 24 Hour News 8.

Willis, already charged in the 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch, also is a suspect in the 2013 disappearance of Jessica Heeringa from a Norton Shores gas station.

“They began surveilling him and making sure, kind of keeping eyes on him, so that he did not potentially victimize anybody else,” Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson said.

A photo of Jeffrey Willis' van in police evidence. (Undated)
A photo of Jeffrey Willis’ van in police evidence. (Undated)

Records show they wanted to make sure he wasn’t stalking anyone.

Police said they checked inside his van while he was working at Herman Miller.

A Muskegon County sheriff’s detective watched Willis at the Meijer store on Harvey Street on May 11 — six days before his arrest.

Police say Willis sat in his silver minivan for about 15 minutes before driving up and down aisles in the parking lot — slowly.

“I can only speculate as to what he was doing there and why he was there, but certainly law enforcement was there watching him and, had he tried to do anything, he would have been stopped almost immediately,” Hilson said.

Less than a month before that, on April 16, a 16-year-old girl allegedly escaped from his van, eventually leading police to identify Willis as a possible suspect in that kidnapping.

But they didn’t have enough to make an arrest, Hilson said.

So they got permission from a judge to monitor him for a month, or at until his arrest.

“By the time we were at the point of being able to arrest Mr. Willis, we had enough ammunition or evidence at that point to issue charges,” Hilson said.

They arrested him May 17, after at least a week of surveillance.

The search warrants don’t mention Heeringa, the young mom who disappeared from a Norton Shores gas station in 2013. Police have identified Willis as a suspect.

But the warrants describe what they found in his van: the sex toys, handcuffs, video cameras, syringes, suspected Viagra pills, .22-caliber handgun and more.

They also describe what police later found in his home – including computers and hard drives.

Police have testified they found videos depicting sex with dead people, and so-called “kidnap and kill videos,” some of them real.

The search warrant also reveals they found five printed internet pages of a list: “Serial killers of the U.S.”


Full coverage: The Jeffrey Willis investigation 

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