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Opening statements are set to take place Thursday afternoon in Muskegon County, Michigan, for the murder trial of Jeffrey Willis, 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. Openings are expected to begin 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.
The current trial is for Bletsch’s murder only, and it remains to be seen what evidence the prosecution will admit into evidence that touches on the other cases.
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