MUSKEGON CO. MICHIGAN - One charge against convicted killer Jeffrey Willis is resolved. That happened late Thursday afternoon when a jury in Muskegon County found Willis guilty in the 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch.
A conviction on first-degree premeditated murder requires the judge to sentence Willis to life in prison without parole.
The 12-member jury returned the verdict after 1½ hours of deliberation. The trial included eight days of testimony.
For now Jeffrey Willis will remain inside the Muskegon County Jail. On Dec. 18 he'll go before Muskegon County Circuit Judge Marietti for sentencing. After sentencing sheriff's deputies will move Willis to the state prison intake facility in Jackson.
By the end of the year Willis should be out of Muskegon County, but legal cases attached to his name will linger. Including appeals relating to the trial that just finished.
"I expect the appeal case to go on ten years," said Fred Johnson, Muskegon County Public Defender. Among Johnson's concern is the judge's decision to hold the trail in Muskegon County.
"The allegation is we have a serial killer in Muskegon," said Johnson. "You live in Muskegon and that's personal."
Other decisions leading up to trial may also be part of Willis' appeal. "The decision on my clients' notes, the decision of Mr. Hilson to hire the former lawyer," said Johnson.
Johnson's theory during trial was that Kevin Bluhm shot and killed Rebekah Bletsch. Bluhm's trial related to the Heeringa case may happen later this month.
"If the trial goes we will be there watching and taking notes," said Johnson.
Muskegon County prosecutor D.J. Hilson is seeking conviction on all the crimes WIllis is charged with
"Whatever Mr. Willis doesn't plead to I will try," Hilson said. A trial for the murder of gas station clerk Jessica Heeringa has not been scheduled. It will likely happen in 2018.
"He knows exactly where her body is," Hilson said. "Whether or not he wants to tell us, we would be willing to listen."
And Hilson expects appeals will be filed. "Anybody convicted in a jury trial has the automatic right to an appeal at the court of appeals level," Hilson said. "We will certainly be ready to respond accordingly."
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