Muskegon judge asked to allow evidence, state's high court asked to remove prosecutor

Willis hearing on 8/18/2017

MUSKEGON, MICH. - On Friday, a Muskegon judge heard arguments about the admission of stolen underwear as evidence.

Muskegon Prosecutor D.J. Hilson wants to use the clothing at the October murder trial against Jeffrey Willis. He's the Muskegon Township man charged with a number of felonies including the deaths of Rebekah Bletsch and Jessica Heeringa.

The charge relating to the 2014 death of Bletsch will be the first to go to trial. She was shot in the head while jogging.

►Related: 1 year later: Revisiting the case against accused killer Jeffrey Willis

Hilson told the judge the underwear in question were taken from the same home in Muskegon County where a gun went missing prior to Bletsch's death. Hilson says the stolen gun was located in Jeffrey Willis van after he was arrested in May of 2016.

The underwear were found in a shed at Willis' home -- if allowed the evidence may be used to build a stronger connection between Willis and the gun which Hilson says is the weapon that was used to shoot Bletsch.

Muskegon Public Defender Fred Johnson is Jeffrey Willis' attorney. He told the judge if allowed the stolen underwear could prejudice the jury.

The judge is expected to rule later this month on that issue.

The judge took arguments on a second issue that relates to the effort by the Willis' attorney to have the Muskegon County Prosecutors office removed from the Willis case.

Johnson believes the prosecutor has an unfair trial advantage based on the actions of Muskegon jail guards who removed notes from Willis' cell.

The judge told Johnson and Hilson to prepare for the October trial, refusing to delay the case any longer. 

At one time the Bletsch trial was scheduled to start in June. The murder case relating to the death of Jessica Heeringa may take place in 2018.

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