911 caller wishes he could have done more to help Heeringa

Craig Harpster also thinks Kevin Bluhm should be charged with murder

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


MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Just after 11 p.m. on April 26, 2013, Craig Harpster pulled up to a pump at the gas station on Sternberg Road in Norton Shores. But he couldn’t find a clerk, so he went looking for her.

“There was a car out front but I proceeded throughout the whole store. I even looked behind the building. There was nothing there at that time,” Harpster recalled Thursday. “Everything was a gut feeling and my gut says something’s wrong.”

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

When he still couldn’t find the clerk, he called 911.

“I don’t know if it’s an emergency,” Harpster told the dispatcher. “There’s nobody here. … It’s very suspicious why there is nobody here.”

The missing clerk was Jessica Heeringa, 25. Police now believe she had been abducted by Jeffrey Willis only a few minutes before Harpster placed his call.

The first officer sent to the scene was coming from the area of Airport Road and Grand Haven Road, north of the gas station.

Jessica Heeringa, surveillance images, silver minivan
Surveillance images provided by Norton Shores police of the silver minivan headed north on Grand Haven Road.

Surveillance cameras along Grand Haven Road captured images of a silver minivan that investigators have long believed was driven by the kidnapper — a silver minivan like the own Willis owns. Harpster said he thinks the officer probably passed the minivan on Grand Haven.

“But you wouldn’t have known,” Harpster said.

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.

Willis was charged earlier this week with kidnapping and murdering Heeringa. He’s also accused of murdering Rebekah Bletsch in June 2014 and trying to abduct a 16-year-old girl earlier this year.

Thursday, Harpster told 24 Hour News 8 he is heartbroken about the Heeringa case and wishes he could have done more. He wonders what would have happened if he had gotten to the gas station just a few minutes earlier.

“It’s just if it was minutes sooner on that night, would he have stalked her later? Probably,” he said.

He’s grateful, however, the Willis and Willis’ cousin Kevin Bluhm now faces charges in Heeringa’s murder. Bluhm is charged as an accessory after the fact, but Harpster thinks he should face a murder charge, too.

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.

According to court records, Bluhm told investigators that he helped Willis bury Heeringa’s body in 2013, a year before Bletsch was shot and killed as she jogged near her home in Dalton Township.

“Rebekah would be alive if he would have been man enough to report him,” Harpster said of Bluhm. “It’s just a terrible, terrible thing to think there are people in the world like that, that could witness it and not turn someone in. That bothers me just as much as doing it.”

“I don’t know how someone could live with themself,” he added.

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