MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Jury selection continued Wednesday in the trial of Jeffrey Willis, who’s accused of shooting and killing Rebekah Bletsch more than three years ago.
Attorneys starting narrowing a pool of more than 320 potential jurors Tuesday, questioning them one-by-one and focusing on finding people who have not been biased by the extensive media coverage of Willis’ case. That process continued Wednesday and ended just before 6 p.m. Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said the jury pool had been whittled down to 53.
More traditional jury selection questions will be asked Thursday to find the 12 jurors and two alternates who will hear the case.
Willis’ trial is scheduled to run through Nov. 3.
He’s accused of murdering Bletsch as she jogged near her home in Dalton Township in June 2014. Bletsch, 36, left behind a husband and daughter.
“My family really needs to heal,” Bletsch’s father Nick Winberg told 24 Hour News 8 at the courthouse Tuesday. “We’ve been carrying a mountain of pain for so long and we’ll continue to. But with the trial, conviction and sentencing, I’m sure we’ll get some relief in that regard.”
>>App users: Interactive timeline of Willis investigation
Willis, 47, of Muskegon Township, was arrested in May 2016, the month after police say he tried to abduct a teen girl as she walked in Fruitland Township. Investigators say Willis’ gun jammed twice when he tried to shoot her as she fled.
He is also charged with kidnapping and killing Jessica Heeringa, who vanished from the Norton Shores gas station where she worked in April 2013 and whose remains have not been found. Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm, is charged as an accessory after the fact in that case. Authorities say Bluhm helped Willis bury Heeringa, but that her body was later moved.
The trial in Heeringa’s murder has not yet been set.