Jeffrey Willis' cousin pleads no contest in Jessica Heeringa case

One day before a scheduled trial in Muskegon County Kevin Bluhm, the cousin of Jeffrey Willis resolved a felony charge against him with a plea.

MUSKEGON, MICH. - Kevin Bluhm made an unscheduled appearance in court Monday morning and pleaded no contest ahead of his trial Tuesday, Nov. 28.

Bluhm is the cousin of convicted murderer, Jeffrey Willis, and he is charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact in connection to the Jessica Heeringa investigation. 

Related: A timeline of the Jeffrey Willis case

Investigators say that Bluhm previously lied to them during their investigation into Heeringa's disappearance. 

The plea hearing was the result of discussion between the Muskegon County Prosecutor's office and Bluhm's attorney.

The judge had scheduled the trial to last eight days.

Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson says during discussions with Bluhm's attorney he made one thing clear, he wouldn't back away from the felony charge.

"Our position has been that we are not going to offer any sort of lesser or reduced charge," said Hilson. "We wanted a plea as charged and that is exactly what happened today." 

In accepting the plea a Muskegon County judge was convinced Bluhm helped his cousin Jeffrey Willis remove a body from the basement of a vacant home on Bailey Street the day after Heeringa went missing from her job at the Exxon gas station in Norton Shores. Bluhm told police the body was the "gas station girl." 

"He was being honest about that, " said Hilson. "He was telling the truth about that."

Heeringa's body has never been located.

"I do believe that he has some knowledge of where her remains might be," said Hilson.

Bluhm was charged with the accessory after the fact felony in September of 2016.

A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated the same at sentencing.

The felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, but Bluhm's calculated sentence guidelines on the charge are zero to nine-months in jail.

"He is probably going to receive a time served sentence," said Hilson. 

Members of the Heeringa family.were informed of the possible plea last week.

The judge set Bluhm's sentencing for Jan. 9. 

Jeffrey Willis should go to trial for the abduction and murder of Jessica Heeringa in the spring of 2018.

The judge told Bluhm if Jeffrey Willis is acquitte,d he would allow Bluhm to withdraw the no contest plea.

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