Unsealed search warrants offer new details about possible link between Willis and Heeringa

New details on Willis' investigation

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MICH. - WZZM 13 has obtained copies of two search warrants related to the investigation into Jeffrey Willis. Both documents provide new details on the case, and why police have searched a home in Norton Shores multiple times.

Willis is charged with the 2014 death of Rebekah Bletsch, a failed attempted to kidnap a teenage girl last spring and a number of child pornography related counts. All of the multiple felony charges are pending trial in Muskegon County Circuit Court.

Willis is also considered a "person of interest" by Norton Shores police in the 2013 disappearance of Jessica Heeringa.

The recently unsealed documents are affidavit for search warrants related to the investigation. One from June 27 asked for permission to search Kevin Bluhm’s cell phone and iCloud account. Bluhm is the cousin of Willis.

Another dated May 17 asked a judge for permission to search a home on Bailey Street in Norton Shores. The search warrants were approved. They remained sealed at the Muskegon County Hall of Justice until this week.

The May warrant says police wanted to search the Bailey street home because it once belonged to Jeffrey Willis’s deceased grandfather. According to neighbors the home has been vacant for years. A tip to police lead to the May search after a neighbor said Willis was often hanging around the vacant home. Willis had been seen there around the time Jessica Heeringa was last seen.

A Muskegon County Sheriff's Detective told the judge an external hard drive located at Willis' home on Sheridan Road had a file folder labeled "vics."  Prosecutors previously told a judge they believe "vics" was short for "victims."

Prosecutors also previously said in court at Willis' preliminary hearing that inside the "vics" file folder was a sub folder labeled "RSB" the initials of Rebekah Sue Bletsch.

The new unsealed search warrant says a computer forensic examiner with Michigan State Police also found a folder labeled "JLH" the initials of Jessica Lynn Herringa.

According to the sworn statement the detective says inside the "JLH" folder were numerous electronic images of news reports and/or photos pertaining to the abduction of Jessica Herringa.

The document also reveals that some of Willis's relatives told police Jeffrey was the only family members with keys to the vacant home on Bailey Street and that investigators also found a list of “serial killers of America” in Willis’s van. One entry on that list which had been marked was a reference to a pair of serial killers known as the “Toolbox Murderers.” The search warrants states the “Toolbox Murders” abducted and murdered multiple women in California in the 1970’s.

A trial for Willis is likely still months away.

The search warrant from June reveals what Kevin Bluhm told police about the Jessica Heeringa investigation. Bluhm claimed around the time Jessica Heeringa went missing, Willis asked him to stop by the Bailey Street home.

According to the sworn affidavit Bluhm he entered the basement and observed a “female lying motionless on the floor with her hands and legs restrained.”

Bluhm told police he believed the woman to be Jessica Heeringa. He later told police he made the story up, and last month Bluhm entered guilty pleas to two counts of lying to police. He is being held in the Muskegon County jail and will be back in court on Sept. 20, to be sentenced.

Police searched the Bailey Street home multiple times. They have not said if they ever found evidence that Heeringa was ever in the basement.

The Norton Shores police chief could not comment on the new information, or provide any other details on the active investigation into the disappearance of Heeringa. She vanished April 26, 2013 while working at an Exxon gas station in Norton Shores.

When police arrived, they found the building unlocked, and small blood stains by the back door. An employee at a store near where Heeringa worked the late shift said he noticed a man in a minivan talking to her, but he didn't think much of the interaction until he learned she had been abducted.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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