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 1:30 pm ET.
Prosecutors believe that Willis approached her 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.
Both sides gave their opening statements on Thursday.
The prosecution discussed evidence that will be presented during the trial, including the gun found in Willis’ van. Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said gloves were also found in the van, and that they had Willis’ DNA inside them, and Bletsch’s DNA on the outside. In addition, there was a toolbox in the van that contained what Hilson called a “mini rape kit,” with chains, rope, handcuffs, a gag, handcuffs and sex toys. Hilson also discussed the VICS folder with Bletsch’s initials, and said that investigators also found hundreds of pornographic videos that Willis had, including ones that depicted rape.
The defense said that the real killer was Kevin Bluhm, Willis’ cousin. Attorney Frederick Johnson pointed out that Bluhm had access to Willis’ van, and that he was an expert marksman. Johnson said that the shots that killed Bletsch were fired from far away, as Bletsch was running away. Johnson also said that Bluhm knew Bletsch because their children played soccer together
The prosecution then began calling witnesses. Michelle Klint, the nurse who, along with her husband Mark, found Bletsch, took the stand. Prosecutors played the 911 call that Mark placed at the time. Michelle said that she recognized Bletsch because she was a neighbor and her daughter’s basketball coach.
Deputy Robert Kanaar of the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office described how a cell phone, arm band case, ear buds, and sunglasses were found together on the side of the road, across the road from where Bletsch was.
Deputy Scott Foster testified as to how Bletsch appeared when he arrived on the scene. She was already in an ambulance when he got there. Foster said that her shirt was ripped and her bra was undone, although he acknowledged that it would not be unusual for EMS workers to do that in order to treat her.
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