Trial starts for man accused of killing station clerk
Muskegon – A man convicted of fatally shooting a jogger and accused of kidnapping and killing a western Michigan gas station clerk possessed hundreds of videos of women being abducted, raped and killed, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson, who spoke during opening statements in the murder trial of Jeffrey Willis, said the suspect also had computer files containing information about the cases of Rebekah Bletsch, the slain jogger, and Jessica Heeringa, the gas station clerk who disappeared from the Norton Shores gas station in 2013. Heeringa’s body has never been found.
“You’re going to see the deep, dark and evil side of Jeffrey Willis,” Hilson told jurors.
Defense attorney Fred Johnson countered during his opening statement that there’s no evidence Willis killed or kidnapped Heeringa, a single mother the public defender described as “living a tumultuous life.”
“You’ll hear about pornography my client collected – (what) type it is, how disgusting it is,” Johnson said. “What you won’t hear is no one has ever seen him alone with Miss Heeringa, no one has ever seen him assault Miss Heeringa. … You don’t have the evidence you need to convict my client.”
Willis was convicted last year in the 2014 fatal shooting of Bletsch. He’s serving a life sentence in her death. Willis denied wrongdoing during the trial.
Following this trial, Willis is expected to stand trial in the 2016 kidnapping of a teenager who escaped his van, ran for help from a nearby resident and went to police, leading to his arrest.
The teen, who was 16 at the time, testified Tuesday as well as at the previous trial. She said she was leaving a house party by foot and a man she later identified as Willis pulled up in his van. She said she asked to use his phone and he said to get in the vehicle.
After doing so, she testified that Willis told her his phone battery was dead and she asked to get out. She says he pulled out a gun, so she unlocked the door and jumped out.
“(I had to) run for my life. I thought he was going to hurt me,” she said, adding that he got out of the van and aimed the gun at her.
“I asked him to please don’t shoot me,” she said.
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