Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Abduction, Murder of Michigan Store Clerk in 2013

Jeffrey Willis has been sentenced to life in prison for abducting and killing convenience store clerk Jessica Heering...

Posted: Jun 19, 2018 10:05 AM
Updated: Jun 19, 2018 10:05 AM

Jeffrey Willis has been sentenced to life in prison for abducting and killing convenience store clerk Jessica Heeringa in 2013.

Judge William Marrietti delivered the sentence Monday morning.

In a 13-minute statement, Willis addressed the court Monday: he maintained his innocence and made claims that police botched the investigation and manipulated the evidence against him. He maintained that he was trying to help the teen MJN in April 2016, when he was arrested after trying to abduct her.

"Due to a lack of funding, a careless disregard for truth, the desire to reach a rash and attentive conclusion to an unproven crime, or just plain falsifying evidence, not only has this promise [of justice] been murdered, but also left to rot at the feet of lady justice," said Willis reading his statement.

Willis is still awaiting trial on that abduction, but Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson says he has to speak with people, including victims, about whether to continue to pursue or drop these pending charges.

After his arrest in 2016, investigators tied a gun found in Willis' van to the bullets used to kill Rebekah Bletsch while she was jogging in June 2014. They also found other evidence that tied Willis to Heeringa's disappearance in April 2013.

Hilson addressed the court and says he is very proud of the police work done in Muskegon County, thanked the Bletsch family for their help and support, then said he expects to sleep better knowing that Jeffrey Willis is behind bars for life.

"[Willis] just doesn't see his culpability in all of this apparently," said Hilson after sentencing.

"[Willis] would have continued to haunt and stalk women who were isolated or in isolated areas, and his killing would have continued; I have no doubt in my mind of that. The fact that this man will never see the light of day again, I'm pretty happy with that."

Despite Willis calling his trial rigged, his defense attorney, Muskegon County Chief Public Defender Fred Johnson told FOX 17 this trial was "remarkably fair."

"This was the man who was vilified from the very press conference before he even went to the preliminary examination," said Johnson.

"So under those circumstances and given the complications, the County of Muskegon put on a terrific defense for this man. And we're very proud of the effort we made for him."

On May 16, jurors deliberated for less than two hours before finding Willis guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the April 2013 kidnapping and death of Heeringa, a clerk at the former Exxon Mobil gas station in Norton Shores. Her body has not been found.

No one from Heeringa's family addressed the court, while family members of Rebekah Bletsch sat in attendance. Many of Jessica's family maintain that because her body hasn't been found, her murder is still not conclusive.

Willis is already serving a life sentence for the 2014 murder of Bletsch.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844951

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161002006
Mobile741871379
Madison53279732
Shelby38325368
Baldwin38068589
Tuscaloosa36009641
Montgomery34482781
Lee25550263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22451406
Etowah20013517
Marshall18777316
Houston17727425
St. Clair16875358
Limestone16135218
Cullman16044303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14968306
Talladega14189299
DeKalb12967269
Walker12020380
Blount10714192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10157194
Coffee9414192
Colbert9334208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7254201
Russell707765
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6932195
Franklin6340108
Chambers5783142
Marion5401130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318189
Cherokee317563
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254460
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184947
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 31°
Columbus
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 32°
Oxford
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 30°
Starkville
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 34°
High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for our Saturday. This will keep us filled with plenty of sunshine in our weather forecast for our Saturday.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather