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The murder trial of Jeffrey Willis continues in Muskegon County, Michigan. Willis is accused of killing Rebekah Bletsch on June 29, 2014. Bletsch was found on the side of the road by a couple who thought she had been hit by a car. When they tried to resuscitate her, they realized she had multiple gunshot wounds to the head. Court is expected to continue at 9:30 am ET. Due to errors by a local cameraman who accidentally showed the face of an underage witness as well as members of the jury, Judge William Marietti ordered that video of the trial be shut down until he decides otherwise. In the meantime, listen live here.
Prosecutors believe that Willis approached Bletsch with the intent to sexually assault and kill her, and then shot her. Police and Bletsch’s family said that Willis may have shot her when she resisted his attempt to assault her.
The investigation of Willis didn’t start until nearly two years after Bletsch’s death. In April 2016, a teenage girl told police that a man in a silver van abducted her, but she escaped. The kidnapper allegedly offered to let her use his cell phone in his van while she was walking home at night, but when she got inside, he started driving and didn’t give her the phone. She then jumped out of the moving vehicle and reported the incident. While investigating Willis’ property in connection with the kidnapping, police found the evidence connecting him to Bletsch. That evidence included a gun in Wills’ van that matched shell casings and bullets that had been collected during the investigation of Bletsch’s death.
In addition to the gun, investigators also found files related to Bletsch on Willis’ computer, labeled with Bletsch’s initials, in a folder titled “VICS.” Police believe VICS is short for victims. Also on the computer were similar files that police say had to do with another woman who disappeared in 2013, Jessica Heeringa. Willis stands to face a separate trial for Heeringa’s murder and the kidnapping of the teenager.
Willis himself took the stand on Wednesday to tell his side of the story to the jury. He claimed that he did not kill Bletsch or Heeringa, and that his cousin, Kevin Bluhm, borrowed his gun before Bletsch’s death. He also had a very different story of his encounter with the teenager than the girl presented in her testimony. While she claimed that Willis offered to let her use his phone if she got in his van, only to drive off and then pull some sort of gun on her, Willis said he didn’t pull any weapon, and that from the beginning, he asked if she wanted a ride and she said “okay.” Willis claims he never touched her, and didn’t know why she got nervous and jumped out of the moving vehicle.
After Willis testified, attorneys from both sides read parts of a transcript of a deposition of Bluhm, and the defense rested their case.
On Thursday, the prosecution may call rebuttal witnesses, before each side presents their closing arguments.
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