MUSKEGON, MICH. - Jeffrey Willis has been locked inside a jail cell at the Muskegon County Jail for 506 days. With the Rebekah Bletsch murder trial nearing, Willis's attorney, Fred Johnson, approved a short jail interview with his client.
However, the sheriff's department would not deviate from policy -- meaning no cameras in the visitation room and no audio recording devices. Just a pen and paper.
Willis was allowed to talk for 25 minutes.
He said he's lost 127 pounds since being in jail and added the emotional and physical stress is taking a toll. He said he is anxious about the pending trial.
"Don't know anybody who can be ready for something like this, nervous obviously, this is my life here," he said.
Willis spent several minutes talking about a legal challenge the defense lost that would have kept handwritten notes removed from his jail cell out of the trial. Willis told us that jail guards, "Waltz right in here, take what they want and disregard my rights guaranteed in the constitution."
Willis also talked about being arrested during a traffic stop on his way home from work and said he talked with detectives for two hours without an attorney -- and on that day believed he would go home.
That didn't happen.
Willis said he first heard the name Rebekah Bletsch while in court to be charged for allegedly trying to kidnap a teenage girl, and he more than once denied involvement in her death.
"I want people to know I could not do this. This is something I did not do. I'm not a monster, I did not do this," he said.
While Willis waits in jail, his public defender is making what may be the last pre-trial motion. Johnson believes detectives back in May 2016 didn't have legal right to enter Willis's home.
"Without probable cause, you are not allowed to go in, and because they didn't have it, we are asking that all the evidence -- any evidence that they may have gotten as a result of that search be excluded from trial," Johnson said.
D.J. Hilson, the Muskegon County Prosecutor, said, "I have full faith and confidence that our investigators did exactly as they were supposed to."
A hearing on that issue will take place Tuesday, Oct. 10, and Hilson said he is ready for trial. "At the end of the day, we will be asking the jury to convict," he said.
"We are at the point where we are as prepared as we are going to be, and as prepared as we need to be to try the case," Johnson said.
"I don't want to push off the trial, I'm ready to go. I believe in our justice system, I believe it works," Willis said.
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