Willis trial testimony: First responders, 911 call

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Latest on Jeffrey Willis’ trial for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch:

>>App users: Watch Thursday’s opening statements and testimony here.

5 p.m. – Judge William Marietti has called an end to Thursday’s proceedings. He says testimony in the Bletsch murder trial will continue at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

4:55 p.m. – A deputy called to the scene of Rebekah Bletsch’s murder said he knew very early on that the scene “didn’t fit” with the typical hit-and-run crash.

Deputy Scott Foster testified he noticed two wounds to Bletsch’s head, bruising to the left side of her rib cage and to a wrist.

4:43 p.m.  –  During cross-examination by Willis’ defense attorney, the deputy who first arrived at the Bletsch shooting scene said the victim’s sunglasses, armband and earbuds were gathered alongside the road when he arrived. He testified the shell casing was on the east side of the road; Bletsch’s body was on the west side of the road, he said.

The deputy said he moved an item and returned it before taking a photo at the scene.

4:30 p.m. – The first law enforcement officer at the scene of the shooting is now testifying.

The Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office deputy said he took over CPR on Bletsch when he first arrived at the scene. Once he was relieved by the Dalton Township fire chief, the deputy said he noticed an obvious wound to Bletsch’s head, as well as a spent shell casing.

4:20 p.m. – Michelle Klint, the registered nurse who came upon Rebekah Bletsch after she was shot, was shown photos of the scene. She said some of Bletsch’s belongings, including an an arm band and some sunglasses, were in a pile on the opposite side of the road from where Bletsch lay.

Defense attorney Fred Johnson questioned Klint about how Bletsch’s body lay when she was found: with her upper body toward the outside of the road and her lower body partially in the road. Klint said Bletsch did not say any intelligible words.

Klint told Johnson that she didn’t notice any footprints or noticeable tire tracks near Bletsch’s body, but noted she also wasn’t looking for anything like that. She said she did not see anyone else in the area.

Klint said she didn’t see any bullets or shell casings.

4:10 p.m. – The jury listened to the 911 call made by Mark Klint when he and his family found Rebekah Bletsch lying along the side of Automobile Road.

“We came up on this lady. She’s laying in the road. I think she was hit by a car. She’s got a head injury,” he could be heard saying in the recording. “She is breathing and she has a pulse. She has a head injury. She’s got a head injury and she’s laying face down.”

“You need to hurry,” he said twice.

“She’s got a really bad head injury,” Klint continued. “She’s bleeding a lot from her head … She’s got blood coming from her ears, from her right ear.”

The decision was then made to roll Bletsch over and start CPR. In the recording, a dispatcher gave instructions on chest compressions.

Michelle Klint, the caller’s wife and a registered nurse, was on the witness stand and began to cry as the recording was played, sniffling and dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

“Where is somebody?” a distraught Michelle Klint could be heard asking the dispatcher in the recording.

“I know this is hard. You’re doing great,” the dispatcher said, reassuring the Klints that emergency responders were on the way.

Eventually, first responders arrived and took over, at which point the call ended.

Bletsch died at the scene. Authorities found later she had been shot three times in the head.

4 p.m. – Michelle Klint was the third witness called by the prosecution. Klint is the registered nurse who used to live along Automobile Road and who spotted Rebekah Bletsch lying along the side of the road as she drove by with her family.

“My husband made a comment that he thought it might be a deer,” she told the court. “I realized that it was a person laying there. … We drove a little bit closer and I got out and ran over there while my husband was in the car with my daughter. … And when I realized it was a person, I said, ‘We need to call 911.'”

Klint said Bletsch was partially in the road, lying on her stomach with her head toward the gravel. Her head was turned to the right. Klint said she could see there was blood on Bletsch’s head. Klint said Bletsch’s top had been rucked up and her pants rucked down so part of her bottom was visible.

“Once I got to her, I could hear her somewhat like moaning, and obviously she was breathing at that point and I checked her pulse,” Klint said. “I felt that it was pretty regular, although it was fast.”

“Because I thought she was struck by a car, being a nurse, I know that sometimes you don’t move people,” Klint said. “Her pulse was regular although it was fast and she was still making noise … breathing was regular, I didn’t feel that I should move her at that time.”

She added she could not have moved Bletsch without her husband’s help.

Klint’s husband called 911. During that call, the decision was made to turn Bletsch from her stomach to her back so Klint and her husband could attempt CPR and maintain Bletsch’s spinal cord.

Klint said she didn’t immediately recognize the woman she had found as Bletsch and didn’t realize it was her until she was identified by emergency responders. Klint knew Bletsch as a neighbor and her daughter’s coach.

3:50 p.m. – Prosecutor D.J. Hilson called his second witness to the stand: Kenneth Bletsch, Bletsch’s father-in-law. He testified he lived next door to his daughter-in-law and that he saw her come home the day of her killing. He said he then saw her leave her home to go jogging, headed south on Automobile Road. He said she often jogged or rode her bike along a similar route to a road about half a mile from their homes.

Defense attorney Fred Johnson confirmed with Kenneth Bletsch that Rebekah Bletsch’s work and exercise schedule was generally regular, usually in the late afternoon or evening.

3:45 p.m. – Prosecutor D.J. Hilson called his first witness to the stand: Molly Deyman, a co-worker of Bletsch.

3:30 p.m. – The defense team has begun presenting its opening statements in the Jeffrey Willis’ trial for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch.

Willis’ defense attorney started by asking the jury to focus only on the murder of Bletsch, not the other cases he is charged in.

The defense also said they think Bletsch knew her murderer and was running away when she was shot.

Willis’ defense attorney said Bletsch was in a fight with her husband the day before her murder, but they said the evidence will point to Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm, as the murderer.

The defense says Bluhm was stalking Bletsch on Facebook and that their children played soccer together. The defense team argued Bluhm was a “marksman” and Bletsch’s shooting would take skill. Willis’ attorney also said Bluhm borrowed items from Willis and then returned them after the crime.

3 p.m. – Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson is laying out the evidence he will be presenting during Jeffrey Willis’ trial for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch.

During opening statements Thursday, Hilson said investigators found a crumpled piece of notebook paper at the home of Willis’ grandfather that was a “rape list,” as well as 11 bleach bottles along with other cleaning supplies.

The prosecutor said a glove of Willis’ also contained DNA from Bletsch.

Hilson also intends to present evidence found on Willis’ computer – namely a computer file labeled “VICS” with a folder that had Bletsch’s initials on it. The prosecutor said Willis also had hundreds of rape-capture-kill-videos.

Hilson says he will pursue a first-degree murder conviction in the case.

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — After more than two days of jury selection, opening statements are underway in the trial of Jeffrey Willis.

Willis is accused of shooting and killing Rebekah Bletsch as she jogged near her home in Dalton Township in June 2014. Bletsch, 36, left behind a husband and daughter.


Photo
: Rebekah Bletsch (Source: Facebook)

The court announced a jury had been seated shortly after noon Thursday. The jury gathered in the courtroom around 2 p.m. to hear the judge’s instructions for the trial, then Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson began laying out his case during opening statements.

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.


>>App users: Interactive timeline of Willis investigation

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.

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