NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) — Wednesday marks a somber anniversary for one of West Michigan’s most high profile missing person cases: the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa.
Heeringa was working at a gas station on Sternberg Road in Norton Shores when she disappeared on April 26, 2013. The last customer saw her at 10:51 p.m. The customer told police Heeringa was alone in the store but did not appear distressed. The patron didn’t see anyone in the parking lot at the time.
Around 11 p.m., the gas station manager and her husband said they rode by and saw a silver minivan stop at the rear of the gas station. They said someone opened the van’s rear hatch, adjusted something, then closed it before driving away. Surveillance video at a nearby store showed a silver minivan turning north onto Grand Haven Road.
About seven minutes later, a customer arrived to pump gas but found no one at the station. Officers called to the scene
found Jessica’s purse and coat and the cash drawer in the gas station’s backroom. At the back door, they found a blood stain and what appeared to be a batter cover to a laser sight to a gun.
Investigators didn’t get a major break in the case until about three years later, when a man in a silver man allegedly tried to abduct a teenager on her way home from a party. The teen’s detailed description of the vehicle and its driver led authorities to Willis.
Detectives said the laser sight battery cover recovered at the scene of Heeringa’s disappearance matched the type of gun owned by Willis.
Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm, told police he helped Willis bury Jessica’s body, but later recanted his story. Authorities think he was telling the truth originally and he was eventually charged with being an accessory to Heeringa’s kidnapping and murder.
Wednesday, a Facebook page dedicated to finding Heeringa posted the following message:
“Today marks 4 years since Jessica was ripped from her family. She was taken from a family that truly loves her. Taken from a little boy, that (sic) need his Mommy. Her family has had to endure the worst of the worst. The only thing in their lives that hasn’t changed is their love for Jess, and their hope to bring her home.”