‘Bletsch Law’ would make convicts listen to victims

Jeffrey Willis blows a kiss while leaving the courtroom ahead of his sentencing for Rebekah Bletsch's murder on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A state representative is working with the family of murder victim Rebekah Bletsch to make sure that criminals will be required to listen to victim impact statements at sentencing.

“What is the point of an impact statement if I cannot speak it to the person who has impacted me?” Bletsch’s sister, Jessica Josephson, wondered.

Bletsch was gunned down while jogging near her Dalton Township home in June 2014. Nearly two years later, Jeffrey Willis was charged with her murder. In November 2017, a jury convicted him. In December, before the family could address Willis during his sentencing hearing, he asked to leave court and the judge allowed it. Adding insult to injury, Willis blew a kiss as he walked out — he later told Target 8 it was directed at the prosecutor, not Blestch’s family.

“Personally, I was disgusted when I heard about this,” state Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague, said.

She decided to take action and introduced House Bill 5407, which would require defendants to hear the victim impact statements.

Bletsch’s mother and one of her sisters testified as the first hearing for the bill was held Tuesday.

“It was too emotional for us as he walked out,” Bletsch’s mother Debra Reamer told the members of the House Committee on Law and Justice. “It was baffling to think that he could just walk out. You (Willis) didn’t give Becky a chance then you took her life.”

HB 5407, which would update the Michigan Crime Victim’s Rights Act, would still allow for defendants to leave the courtroom in they are disruptive. It gives the judge discretion to make that call.

If it passes, the measure will be named the Rebekah Bletsch Law.

“No one should have to feel how we felt,” Bletsch’s sister, Josephson, said.

Willis’ request to leave the courtroom at sentencing was highly unusual. Most convicts do hear them. Former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually assaulted his patients of the guise of medical treatment, listened to days of victim impact statements in both Ingham and Eaton counties because he was required to do so under the terms of his plea agreement.

And in the end, Willis did have to listen to the victim impact statements. The deputies who took him to the state prison inmate intake center played them for him on a loop.