Bluhm pleads no contest in Jessica Heeringa case

Kevin Bluhm evokes his Fifth Amendment right during Jeffrey Willis' murder trial at Muskegon County circuit court inside the Hall of Justice in downtown Muskegon, Mich., on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.(Cory Morse/Pool)


MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who told police he helped Jeffrey Willis dispose of Jessica Heeringa’s body has entered a no contest plea to an accessory charge one day before his trial was set to begin.

Kevin Bluhm entered the no contest plea to one count of accessory to a crime after the fact Monday morning in Muskegon County Circuit Court, sending his case directly to sentencing. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but will be treated as such when his sentence is handed down in January.

“He allowed the court to find him guilty of that particular crime. And certainly that, I guess, fits in with what we were thinking,” Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said Monday.

Bluhm, a former state prison guard, was charged with accessory after the fact because he told police he helped Willis, who is his cousin, get rid of Heeringa’s body.

He later told detectives he made the whole story up, and pleaded guilty to lying to police in the case.

But investigators believe part of what Bluhm told them was true and that he played a role in helping Willis after Heeringa was killed.

Heeringa disappeared from the Sternberg Road gas station where she worked on April 26, 2013. Her body has never been found.

“I do believe that he has some knowledge of where her remains might be. And whether or not he wants to come forward with that, that’s on Mr. Bluhm,” Hilson said.

The prosecutor says sentencing guidelines call for zero to nine months in prison because Bluhm doesn’t have a prior criminal record.

Bluhm has already spent nearly 18 months behind bars, so he will likely be sentenced to time served and possibly released from jail when he’s sentenced Jan. 9.

While Hilson was pleased with Monday’s plea, he’s frustrated about the lack of information from Bluhm about the Heeringa case.

“At the end of the day, the criminal justice system can only hold onto him for so much time. And we’re running out of that time,” Hilson explained. “We’ve been patient in using the tools we have to try to get that information and it just hasn’t come forward.”

24 Hour News 8 spoke with Bluhm’s defense attorney Monday, but he refused to comment on the case.

Earlier in November, Willis was found guilty of murdering Rebekah Bletsch, who was shot and killed as she jogged down a rural Muskegon County road near her home.

Willis has yet to be sentenced for Bletsch’s murder and his trial for Heeringa’s murder has not yet been set.