Friday Willis murder trial testimony ends with a twist

Jeffrey Willis standing trial for June 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch

Jeffrey Willis, right, talks with his defense attorney, Fred Johnson, before witness testimony resumes on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. (Cory Morse/Pool)


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

 2:30 p.m. –  The judge presiding over the trial has ended testimony for Friday amid arguments over the validity of Kevin Bluhm’s statements to police in connection to Bletsch’s murder.

Judge William Marietti told defense attorney Fred Johnson and prosecutor D.J. Hilson he needs to review Bluhm’s 18-hour interview to see what part is relevant to the case. Marietti may even delay restarting the trial on Tuesday, which was the day it was expected to end.

 2 p.m. –  Defense attorney Fred Johnson has called Kevin Bluhm into the courtroom, where Bluhm pleaded the Fifth. Johnson is expected to call several other witnesses as he builds his case against Bluhm.

Johnson said Bluhm’s statement to police would help show he was involved in Bletsch’s homcide. However, the judge said there’s no evidence that Bluhm had anything to do with the murder of Rebekah Bletsch.

Prosecutor D.J. Hilson says because Bluhm lied to police, his statement is hearsay and worthless.

12 p.m. –  Defense attorney Fred Johnson says he plans to call four or five witnesses, including Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm. However, Bluhm may evoke his Fifth Amendment right to protect against self-incrimination, and not testify.

It’s unclear if Johnson will call Willis to the stand.

>>Photos: Inside the courtroom during Day 6 of Willis trial testimony

11:45 a.m. – The prosecution has rested their case. The judge has ordered testimony on the defense’s behalf to resume at 2 p.m.

11:30 a.m. – In cross-examination, Schmitt explains the test results: that it was 4,600 times more likely DNA found on the sex toy originated from Rebekah Bletsch and another person, and 90 quadrillion times more likely that DNA found on the outside of a glove taken from Willis’ van originated from Bletsch and another person.

Johnson questions why Bletsch’s DNA wasn’t found on other items at the scene, like her sunglasses and earbuds. Schmitt said they only tested a 31-inch section of the cord of the earbuds – not the buds that would go into her ears. She says someone wearing gloves may not leave behind DNA, environmental factors like extreme sunlight, rain and snow and bleach would also eliminate DNA.

11:15 a.m. –  Schmitt testifies a swabbing of a sex toy and a glove found in Willis’ van had DNA that matched Rebekah Bletsch. The exterior of the Reebok glove did not have any DNA match for Kevin Bluhm, Jessica Heeringa, Willis’ ex-wife or Michelle Schnotala, Schmitt testifies.

>>App users: Listen to the second half of trial Friday morning’s testimony here.

11 a.m. – Testimony resumes. Schmitt says a swab of the door lock on Willis’ van showed no alleged victim DNA.

10:15 a.m. – Schmitt determined Bletsch’s daughter was the “major donor” of the DNA found on the headphones, but not other items swabbed at the murder scene.

The judge has ordered a break so he can handle other cases. It’s unclear when testimony will resume.

10 a.m. – Prosecutor D.J. Hilson has called his final witness to the stand: DNA analysis expert Michelle Schmitt.

Schmitt analyzed swabbings from items at the Bletsch murder scene. She says none of the swabs in the rape kit tested positive for seminal fluid or semen.

>>App users: Listen to Friday morning’s testimony here.


MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The sixth day of testimony in Jeffrey Willis’ trial for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch will begin with more expert explanation of DNA evidence.

The DNA expert is expected to be the prosecution’s last witness. The defense will also call witnesses, including possibly bringing Willis’ ex-wife back to the stand. It’s not yet known whether Willis will testify in his own defense, but it seems unlikely.

Bletsch, 36, was shot and killed in June 2014 as she jogged near her home in Dalton Township, north of Muskegon. Willis, 47, was arrested nearly two years later after allegedly trying to abduct a teen girl.

The witnesses who took the stand Thursday were all investigators. A Michigan State Police lieutenant discussed perhaps the most important piece of evidence in the case: the ballistics test that matched the gun found in Willis’ minivan to the bullets that killed Bletsch. She was shot three times in the head.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the Jeffrey Willis investigation

Another expert ran down the DNA tests on the evidence confiscated from Willis’ minivan and Muskegon Township home and his late grandfather’s property. The expert said he couldn’t confirm any DNA matches to Bletsch, the teen Willis allegedly tried to abduct or Jessica Heeringa, who Willis is also charged with murdering. Other experts said that none of the DNA found on Bletsch’s body belong to Willis. Prosecutors argued that’s because his skin was covered.

The defense is trying to pin Bletsch’s death on Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm, but in testimony earlier this week, investigators said Bluhm had an alibi that checked out. And Thursday, a DNA expert said none of the evidence he examined matched Bluhm.

Bluhm is charged as an accessory after the fact in the death of Heeringa, who disappeared from the Norton Shores gas station where she worked in April 2013. Her remains have not been found.

Willis’ trial for Bletsch’s murder was initially scheduled to run through Nov. 3, but could wrap up sooner than that.

>>App users: Interactive timeline of Willis investigation