Closing arguments in Jeffrey Willis murder trial

Jeffrey Willis took the stand Wednesday to deny killing Rebekah Bletsch in 2014

Jeffrey Willis cries in court as his Public Defender Fred Johnson, gives his closing statements on the eighth day of his murder trial on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. (Joel Bissell/Pool)

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

Nov. 2, 2017, 3:45 p.m. – Jury deliberations are underway.

3:15 p.m. – Hilson says he’s bothered Johnson suggested that he’s so invested in the case that he’s blinded.

“That’s an attack against my character I’ve never experienced before,” Hilson says. “I have never, ever prosecuted or convicted an innocent person.”

Hilson said law enforcement did attempt to get Bluhm’s phone records, but the cell phone provider didn’t have records dating that far back.

“We didn’t ignore that. Absolutely not,” Hilson says.

Hilson says Willis testified “armed and ready to weasel his way out of it,” adding the evidence just doesn’t add up in Willis’ favor.

Hilson says if the Heeringa and MJN evidence wasn’t relevant, the judge wouldn’t have allowed it.

“Mr. Bluhm didn’t commit this crime… the evidence doesn’t even come close to supporting it,” Hilson says.

Hilson says it is impossible for Bluhm to commit this crime based on the timeline. He says by the defense’s definition of Bluhm being obsessed, he must be obsessed with everyone whose profile he checks on Facebook.

“I’ve never seen pure evil, but the defendant to me is pure evil. Not only does he have the willingness to lie, but he has no problem killing people. Doesn’t even phase him,” says Hilson.

Hilson says the evidence supports Willis committed felony murder and premeditated murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

3 p.m. – Johnson says Bluhm timeline is false. He says Bluhm could’ve shot and killed Bletsch as his wife was picking up pizza after the soccer tournament.

“And nobody knows the wiser because nobody ran a phone check to know where he was,” Johnson says.

“They got a goldmine with this guy,” Johnson says about his client, calling him a loner who is on a third shift, so he’s wandering around during the day.

Johnson says he thinks the gloves touched Bletsch, but not the sex toy. His theory is the DNA rubbed off the gloves onto the sex toy as the items were moved about in the toolbox.

Johnson says Willis kept the gun because he didn’t know it was used in a crime.

Johnson says there is more than one silver minivan.

“And maybe the greatest leap of all is to ask you to believe that it’s just a coincidence that my client choses Mrs. Bletsch who happens to be an obsession of Mr. Bluhm,” Johnson says. “I wonder how many quadrillion possibilities that is.”

Johnson says the graphic photo of Bletsch in the ambulance had no evidentiary value.

“It didn’t give you any information, but it got your blood flowing… it moved you emotionally,” Johnson says. He says the Heeringa and MJN cases is also part of that.

“And it makes my client look pretty bad, all that stuff,” Johnson says.

“You’re only being asked to answer one question: Is this the person who shot Mrs. Bletsch. All that other stuff, I submit to you, is muddying the water,” Johnson says.

“Convicting the wrong person is not justice for Mrs. Bletsch or her family,” Johnson says.

2:45 p.m. – Johnson says convicting the wrong person is not justice for the Bletsch family, and it’s not justice for anyone.

“In order for my client to get from McCormick’s station to his house in time to make the call, he’d have to drive about 200 mph,” Johnson says.

The defense works to underline any element of doubt.

Johnson says Willis had a detailed account of what he was doing at the time of Bletsch’s murder. He says his client’s phone didn’t ping at the scene.

“We believe that Kevin Bluhm is your murderer. Kevin Bluhm knew Mrs. Bletsch, Kevin Bluhm stalked her on Facebook… Kevin Bluhm destroyed evidence,” Johnson says.

Johnson questions why Bluhm reset his phone, erasing all the information from his phone.

“It shows a guilty mind, it shows a guilty conscience,” says Johnson.

“Why didn’t he just delete the porn sites, why didn’t he just delete the photographs? Because he’s lying,” Johnson said.

The defense says he thinks Bletsch stopped running because she recognized someone. He says the murderer was a “good shot.”

“I believe Mr. Bluhm shot her, moved over to her and executed her,” he said.

Johnson says Bluhm then gave back the gun and gloves.

“Who keeps the gun? No one keeps the gun,” Johnson says.

Johnson calls Willis’ arrest a “great break” for Bluhm.

“Once they got their guy, once they got the guy they think had done it, how much more investigating are they going to do? None,” the defense says.

Johnson calls Bluhm’s interview “wacky” when he says Willis lassoed Bletsch along the road.

“Where is your DNA most likely to be on your gloves? Inside, inside. None of these gloves were swabbed inside,” Johnson says, referencing the gloves that had exterior DNA matching Willis, but no DNA from Bluhm. Willis had testified that the gloves belonged to Bluhm.

2:20 p.m. – “I know my client is not likeable. And I know he’s scary to some of you…. But I’m asking you to double clutch,” defense attorney Fred Johnson says at start of closing arguments.

1:05 p.m. – The jury has taken its lunch break. The defense will present its closing arguments when court resumes at 2:15 p.m., according to the judge.

>>App users: Listen to the last witnesses and the prosecutor’s closing arguments here.

1 p.m. – Hilson reviews Bletsch’s wounds. Hilson says the murderer had the time to walk over to Bletsch’s body and fire shots two and three, showing premeditation.

Hilson talks about the definition of felony murder and kidnapping, explains how the evidence supports both charges.

He says jurors are allowed to consider MJN and Jessica Heeringa’s cases when making their determination.

He asks the jurors to find Willis guilty of premeditated and felony murder.

12:45 p.m. – Hilson moves onto the toolbox and lockbox found in Willis’ van. He reviews the list of items in them – sex toys, insulin, syringes, lists of women’s names, an injection site diagram and handcuffs and a glove that had DNA on its exterior matching Willis.

A pair of Adidas gloves found in a gun safe also matches Willis’ and Bletsch’s DNA, Hilson recounts. He says a forensic expert testified a sex toy had a mixture of DNA profiles that matched Willis and Bletsch, not Bluhm.

He also brings up how Bluhm’s DNA was not found on the exterior of the gloves Willis said Wednesday where Bluhm’s.

Hilson talks about none of the evidence points to Bluhm and how Bluhm’s whereabouts during Bletsch’s murder are accounted for.

“There is no connection. There is no evidence because it never happened,” Hilson says.

Hilson says the transcript where Bluhm said he handled the gun used in Bletsch’s murder was from a police interview in June 2016. Bluhm had said his encounter for
the gun happened three to four weeks before that interview – years after Bletsch’s murder.

“That does not point to murder, ladies and gentlemen. No way,” Hilson says.

Hilson says Bletsch was shot three times to the head – which shows intention to kill. He says the rape torture kill videos Willis kept was a “cookbook” showing premeditation. He says Willis also had all the tools in his vehicle to commit the crime as well as a handwritten list of items.

Hilson says all the evidence points to felony murder and premeditated murder by Willis.

“The mantra is no witnesses left behind,” Hilson says, referencing the Bletsch and Heeringa cases.

12:30 p.m. – Hilson brings up searches on Willis’ computer that match the timeline of when Willis’ co-worker bought a gun, which she talked about with him at work.

Willis’ co-worker testified she last saw the gun in February 2013, she knew Willis was snowmobiling around her house, and she kept her house unlocked. Hilson talks about DNA matching Willis found on the gun, and the co-worker’s underwear found at Willis’ shed.

Hilson says Willis once again used a “convenience defense,” saying his co-worker sold him the gun and gave him her underwear.

“I’ve never heard of a transaction like that,” Hilson said.

He says Willis’ account that Bluhm had his gun at the time of the murder doesn’t add up.

“That story is not supported by any evidence in this case. Not one,” Hilson says, bringing up how Willis never mentioned the gun to investigators and said he didn’t register it because he didn’t think he had to after 2013.

Bluhm’s DNA profile was also excluded from the gun, Hilson says.

Hilson reviews the evidence at the Bletsch murder scene, including the shell casings that match the brand used for the gun found in Willis’ van.

Hilson talks about the drive Willis would make from the Bletsch murder scene to his house, and how it is 12-14 minutes, either way he would take, going the speed limit and obeying traffic signals. He says that leaves plenty of time to get home and make the 6:26 p.m. phone call Willis has a record of.

Hilson brings up ballistics testimony matching shells at the Bletsch murder scene to the handgun in Willis’ van.

“That, ladies and gentleman is the murder weapon,” says Hilson.

12 p.m. – Hilson recaps MJN’s testimony that Willis had a gun pointed her and recounts the 911 call recording.

“You heard her voice. That wasn’t somebody who thought this was a joke. That wasn’t somebody who thought something fake was going on. That was real fear. Real fear,” Hilson says.

Hilson says there is no coincidence two live rounds found at the scene of the alleged abduction attempt matched the caliber of Willis’ handgun.

“MJN is alive today based on divine intervention, and probably a nervous defendant and a faulty weapon at that moment in time. Otherwise, she suffers the same fate as Rebekah Bletsch and Jessica Heeringa. I’m absolutely – and the evidence convinces me of that,” Hilson says.

Hilson moves onto Willis’ testimony about how changed his story about what he was doing that day.

11:45 a.m. – In closing arguments, prosecutor D.J. Hilson is laying out the timeline of Rebekah Bletsch’s murder and where Jeffrey Willis was that day.

Hilson points out how Willis said he was home mowing his lawn when only his wife there during the time of the murder, and Willis clocked in around 9:45 p.m. that night – hours after Bletsch’s murder.

Hilson brings up Willis’ “digital life” of abduction, rape and kill videos, including “The Jogger,” which he says has “striking” similarities to the situation surrounding Bletsch’s death.

Hilson says it disturbs him that Willis testified the videos were his “outlet.” He brings up the “secret videos” of neighbor girls and Willis’ co-worker, whom he agreed he created.

Hilson brings up “VICS” file created July 1, 2014 and Willis phone record the day of Bletsch.

“I can tell you, ladies and gentleman that I certainly did not kill Rebekah Bletsch. But on June 29, 2014, I didn’t go back and get my phone records and put them away just in case I might need them. To me, that’s a significant piece of evidence, significant. I look at this as the defendant’s digital trophy case,” Hilson says.

Hilson brings up how digital forensic investigator found no evidence tying Kevin Bluhm to Rebekah Bletch’s murder.

Hilson then turns his closing argument to the Jessica Heeringa case. He brings up how Willis repeatedly visited the gas station, but said he didn’t know there were no surveillance cameras. He talks about how Willis visited the gas station the afternoon Willis disappeared and was in the area that night, and how a witness described the silver minivan behind the gas station with a driver in a red shirt. Willis owned a red shirt found in the “craft room of his home.”

The mother of Rebekah Bletsch is comforted by her son as she cries in court.

Hilson explains how the night Jessica Heeringa disappeared a silver minivan headed north and passed Boyer Coin, based on surveillance video– the most direct route from the gas station where Heeringa worked to Willis’ grandfather’s home on Bailey Street.

Hilson brings up battery cover to laser sight for a Carl Walther P22 found outside the gas station, which contained DNA that could not exclude Willis, and how an investigator testified that it would take some force to knock it off.

“So we can presume that Jessica was either knocked out or perhaps made unconscious by a substance, such as insulin. And we know the defendant had access to that,” Hilson says, describing Willis’ knowledge of insulin, access to diabetic supplies, and the injection map found on the inside of the toolbox found in Willis’ van.

“He became a witness the minute he took the stand,” Hilson says of Willis.

From 9:45 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. the night Heeringa disappeared, Willis told police he was home, but Hilson brings up phone tower records that showed Willis’ cellphone was in the area of his grandfather’s home on Bailey Street.

Hilson calls Willis’ testimony a “convenience defense.”

He says based on Willis’ answer to police he spent over an hour picking up boards for his kennel “You have to ask, does that make sense?”

“The defendant likes to keep little trophies,” Hilson says about saved Cpl. Hare message and list of serial killers found in a camera bag that had DNA matching Willis on it. Hilson points out Kevin Bluhm’s

DNA was nowhere on camera bag.

Hilson also talks about the bleach bottles found at Willis’ grandfather’s home. Explains how an investigator determined the manufacturing dates on the bottles were for 2013 and on – two years after Willis’ father died.

“No laundry was being done, no one was living in the house,” Hilson said.

“What do you need that for? Nobody’s doing laundry anymore. Well, we know from the lab people how powerful bleach is in elinating certain things like DNA. Think about that,” Hilson added.

Hilson mentions the blueberry field surveillance video showing Willis’ van. He talks about how MJN said Willis told her to get in his vehicle to use his phone, and then told her the device was dead.

“If the defendant wasn’t trying to abduct her, I don’t know what other scenario shows that. He could have told her that while she was standing on the road,” Hilson said.

“She had to basically save her own life, and thank God she did,” Hilson said.

Hilson says Willis’ testimony doesn’t fit the evidence.

“MJN was going to be victim No. 3,” Hilson says.

11:15 a.m. – The prosecution has rested their case. The court has eliminated juror seat 4 and juror seat 5 from deliberations. Closing arguments are beginning.

11:10 a.m. – Aamondt said he obeyed all speed limits, traffic lights and stop signs during the southbound drive, which was a little longer than 12 minutes.

In the northbound route, Aamondt passes the McCormick’s gas station where surveillance video showed a silver minivan traveling the day Bletsch was killed. Aamondt says he does not pass that gas station going the southbound route.

After replaying the drive, defense attorney Fred Johnson points out it takes about three minutes from the northbound route to pass the McCormick gas station, leaving about 11 more minutes before arriving at Willis’ home.

Prosecution also submits records of Bluhm’s workshift, showing he was working 6 a.m. – 2 p.m. the day of Bletsch’s murder.

11 a.m. – Sgt. Aamondt said there was a dash camera issue when the other detective recorded his southbound route from the Bletsch murder scene to Willis’ home, so Aamondt said he took that route Thursday morning. Jurors are now watching a dash camera recording of that drive.

>>Photos: Inside the courtroom Thursday

10:30 a.m. – Before taking a five minute break, the jury is shown Sgt. Austin Aamondt’s dash camera recording of the drive he took from the Bletsch murder scene to Willis’ home on Wednesday.

Aamondt said he obeyed all stop signs, traffic lights and posted speeds during the drive. The timestamp shows the drive took about 14 minutes.

Another investigator recorded a different route, Aamondt says.

10 a.m. – Prosecution calls detective Lisa Freres to the stand again. She’s shown the printed list of serial killers in the United States from Wikipedia.

Freres said she found the list in the green Sony canvas bag in Willis’ shed on May 27, 2016. It was inside the bag along with a camcorder, knife and handwritten names of women, descriptions and phone numbers, cellphone and camera accessories.

There is hash mark next to Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris’ names – the men known as the “Toolbox Killers.” Freres says it states next to their names “kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed five girls in 1979.”

In cross-examination, Freres says she cannot say how many people would download or print the serial killer list or who would have printed it.

Freres said the tick marks next to the names were “absolutely” there when she recovered the list from Willis’ shed. She said there are no other marks next to any other names.

Freres said there was no mention of a silver van during the investigation of Rebekah Bletsch’s murder, not even in the media, which doesn’t vibe with Willis’ testimony that a co-worker named Bubba told him a silver van was possibly involved in the murder shortly after it happened.

9:55 a.m. – Kevin Bluhm’s daughter, Tori Bluhm testified she went with a friend to hang out and “look at boys” during her sister’s soccer tournament.

She testified her muffler was hanging low, so her dad tried to “tie it up the best he can” so she could get home. She said her dad got into the Suburban after fixing the vehicle. She says she left last, but her parents left at the same time.

Tori testified on her way home her muffler started dragging on the ground so she had to pull over at an insurance business on Seaway by Summit. She said she then called her dad, who answered the phone. She does not remember what time she placed the call. He told her to park her vehicle at the Walgreens because it was safer there.

She testifies when she got home, her entire family including Kevin Bluhm was at home eating pizza.

Tori testifies it was about 6 p.m. when everyone left the credit union parking lot head home.

In cross-examination, Tori testifies her father took about five minutes to tie up her muffler.

9:45 a.m. – The wife of Kevin Bluhm is the first rebuttal witness the prosecution has called. Rhonda Bluhm testifies the day of Rebekah Bletsch’s murder, her family met Kevin Bluhm in a business parking lot to carpool to their middle daughter’s sand soccer tournament at Grand Haven State Park.

Rhonda Bluhm said her husband was there for the entire tournament – and never left her sight for than 10 minutes.

“He would be too excited to see it. He wouldn’t want to miss it,” Bluhm said.

She said her daughter won her game and moved onto another game around 5 p.m., which her team also won.

“We took pictures, we waited, they all got a medal,” Rhonda Bluhm said.

Bluhm’s wife said they all got back into their family Suburban and drove back to the bank parking lot to their cars. She says Kevin then worked on fixing his daughter’s muffler issues, then the family left at the same time around 6 p.m. – Kevin in the suburban, Rhonda in her Malibu with two of their children, and her daughter in her third vehicle.

Rhonda said she went directly to the Little Caesar’s near her home, where she bought a pizza. The receipt has a timestamp of 6:24 p.m. Kevin Bluhm was already at their house when she arrived home, Rhonda Bluhm said.

In cross-examination, defense attorney Fred Johnson lays out the timeline with Rhonda Bluhm. Rhonda testifies her daughter went to the Walgreens store, not her.


MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The prosecution will call rebuttal witnesses Thursday as Jeffrey Willis’ trial for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch winds down.

After the rebuttal witnesses’ testimony, the prosecution and defense with deliver closing arguments, after which the case will go to the jury.

On Wednesday, Willis took the stand in his own defense, countering one by one the pieces of evidence the prosecution laid out against him over the previous six days of testimony. He stated he did not kill Bletsch, who was shot three times in the head as she jogged near her home north of Muskegon on June 29, 2014. Willis said he was home mowing his lawn at the time.

He said he created two electronic files labeled with the initials of Bletsch and Jessica Heeringa, who he is also charged with murdering, to collect evidence of his innocence after he was questioned following Heeringa’s April 2013 disappearance. He said he didn’t because he doesn’t trust the police.

He responded to previous testimony from a teen who says he tried to kidnap her, claiming he was only trying to offer her a ride.

He brushed off the thousands of murder porn videos found on his external drives as an “outlet” for his feelings because his relationship with his wife, who has since divorced him, was suffering.

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

The defense also continued its strategy of blaming Bletsch’s death on Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm, who is charged as an accessory after the fact in Heeringa’s murder.

The jury had previously heard testimony that the gun used in Bletsch’s murder was found in Willis’ minivan and that her DNA was found on a glove in the van. Willis testified that he the gloves were Bluhm’s. He also said Bluhm borrowed the gun before Bletsch’s death and got it back afterward.

The jury heard parts of Bluhm’s statements to investigators after his arrest in which he talked about handling the gun that was used to kill Bletsch. He said Willis handed it to him and asked him to get rid of it, but that he refused and gave it back. Bluhm admitted to knowing Bletsch because their children played soccer together and said she was beautiful. He denied killing her.

After reading through the Bluhm statements, the defense rested.

>>App users: Interactive timeline of Willis investigation