Michigan man sentenced in gas station clerk’s slaying
MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A 48-year-old man serving life in prison for killing a jogger in 2014 was sentenced to another mandatory life term on Monday for the kidnapping and slaying of a Michigan gas station clerk a year earlier.
Jeffrey Willis cried as he told a Muskegon County courtroom that he was innocent in the case of 25-year-old Jessica Heeringa, who went missing in 2013 from a gas station in Norton Shores, near Grand Rapids. Her body hasn’t been found.
Investigators said Willis was linked to both cases after he tried to kidnap a third victim in 2016, when police found a gun, rope, handcuffs, syringes and other items in his van.
Reading from prepared notes, Willis told Circuit Judge William Marietti that he didn’t get a fair trial. He said he wanted to “set the record straight” and “to release pent up frustration for what I see is a failure of our justice system.”
Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said Willis showed no remorse and was “probably one of the most dangerous men” he had ever encountered.
“I’m going to sleep very well tonight knowing that Mr. Willis will never see the light of day,” Hilson told the judge.
Willis was convicted last year of fatally shooting Rebekah Bletsch as she jogged along a rural road in Muskegon County’s Dalton Township in 2014. Her body later was found by someone passing by.
Willis was arrested in 2016 after a teenager said he tried to kidnap her. The arrest jump-started investigations of the unsolved Bletsch homicide and the disappearance of Heeringa.
The gun found in his van was later was identified as the weapon used to kill Bletsch. Police also found a computer file titled “VICS” with Bletsch’s initials and her date of death.
Willis is expected to stand trial in the teen’s attempted kidnapping.