Interview, phone records led to Willis charges in Jessica Heeringa murder

Jessica Heeringa, Jeffrey Willis
Left: Jessica Heeringa (courtesy photo). Right: Jeffrey Willis. (June 22, 2016)


MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) — The murder and kidnapping charges Jeffrey Willis is now facing in the Jessica Heeringa case are based on phone records, credit card statements and an account from Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm.

Bluhm is now charged with being an accessory to a crime after the fact, related to Heeringa’s death.

A 16-page affidavit obtained by 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday lays out the evidence against Willis.

ALLEGED CRIME SCENE

According to the affidavit, Bluhm told investigators he was invited to Willis’ late grandfather’s home in the 3000 block of Bailey Street in Norton Shores the day after Heeringa’s abduction.

Jeffrey Hilson
Jeffrey Willis seems to smirk at prosecutors as he enters a courtroom on Sept. 20, 2016 to be arraigned on charges of kidnapping and murder in the death of Jessica Heeringa.

He told detectives as he got to the bottom of the stairs, he saw a woman with an obvious head wound, lying face down with her hands out and tied, the affidavit reads. He said he knew she was dead because she was not moving. Bluhm said Willis was standing next to the unclothed body and told him he had tortured her.

Bluhm said he helped Willis wrap her up “like a taco” and place her wrapped body on a plastic sheet in the back of Willis’ van, the affidavit states. Bluhm had parked behind Willis’ vehicle, potentially to block any view of them loading the body, according to the court files.

>>PDF: Criminal complaint against Jeffrey Willis 

Note: 24 Hour News 8 has redacted some graphic details in the above file out of respect for the victim’s family.

Bluhm  told investigators he then helped carry Heeringa’s body to a hole that had already been dug near an old set of railroad tracks at S. Sheridan Road and E. Laketon Avenue, not far from Willis’ home. Bluhm said he said he parked his vehicle at a nearby business and rode with Willis to the site where shovels were already sitting.  Investigators searched that area, but never found Heeringa’s body.

The abandoned railbed in Muskegon Township where police conducted a search on June 17, 2016, according to a neighbor.
The abandoned railbed in Muskegon Township where police conducted a search on June 17, 2016, according to a neighbor.

Hilson said Tuesday he thinks Heeringa died within 24 hours to 48 hours of her abduction. However, detectives have not yet found her body.

“We are in the process of trying to find where she’s at,” Hilson told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday. “Is she in Muskegon County? Absolutely could be. Is she outside of Muskegon County? Sure, that’s a possibility.”

>>After murder charge, question remains: Where is Jessica Heeringa?

WILLIS AT THE GAS STATION

Bluhm said he knew Willis had been following Heeringa, and Willis had hit her in the head at the Norton Shores gas station where she worked. Police say they found parts of the Walther P22 gun they seized from Willis, the affidavit states.

jessica heeringa
Jessica Heeringa went missing from the Norton Shores gas station where she worked on April 26, 2013.

According to the affidavit, phone records show Willis was at the gas station at 5 p.m. on April 26, 2013 — the day Heeringa disappeared. That day Willis was at a “magic tournament” at the adjacent mall, the court file indicates.

The affidavit states Willis had originally told police that he was with his wife the night of Heeringa’s disappearance, but phone records show he was at his grandfather’s home on Bailey.

According to the affidavit, Willis’ wife called from their home phone to his cellphone at 11:23 p.m. and midnight — the same time he told detectives he was home. At 12:05 a.m., phone records show him calling his house. After that conversation, there were no other hits on the phone but records show his phone in the area of his grandfather’s house on Bailey.

A witness told police she also saw Willis at the gas station the day before Heeringa’s abduction, talking to her. Credit card records show Willis had visited the Norton Shores station 15 or 16 times, according to the affidavit.

TRUTH OR LIES?

Bluhm was sentenced to time served Tuesday for two counts of lying to a peace officer.

Kevin Bluhm
Kevin Bluhm enters a Muskegon County courtroom on Sept. 20, 2016 to be arraigned on a charge of being an accessory after the fact in Jessica Heeringa’s murder.

Norton Shores police said he weaved an elaborate account about how he helped Willis “take care” of Heeringa, then later said the entire story was a lie.  However, court records show police believe his initial account was true; that’s why they filed the new accessory charge against him late Monday afternoon.

Bluhm was also charged with lying to police in the Rebekah Bletsch murder investigation during a May 18 interview.

Willis was charged in May with kidnapping and assault with a dangerous weapon in connection to the attempted abduction of a 16-year-old girl in Fruitland Township in April.

After his arrest, ballistics testing matched a gun found in his silver minivan to the one used in the June 2014 killing of Rebekah Bletsch in Dalton Township. As a result, he was charged with her murder.

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

Also found in Willis’ van: handcuffs, rope, syringes, and images of bound and gagged women. When investigators searched his computers and hard drives, they found necrophilia and “kidnap and kill” videos downloaded from the internet — some of which were acted out and some of which were real.

Investigators said on Willis’ computer they also found a file labeled “VICS” (short for victims) that contained a folder labeled with Bletsch’s initials and a code for the date of her death. It contained photos of Bletsch and wanted posters from the case. A police source told 24 Hour News 8 there was a file bearing Heeringa’s name.

Willis has also been charged with felonies for the creation and possession of child pornography and for videotaping unclothed underage girls without their knowledge.

Willis is expected back in court Oct. 4 to determine if he’ll stand trial.

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