MUSKEGON, Mich. - Wednesday marks the sixth day of testimony in the trial for Jessica Heeringa's murder, and it will likely be the final day.
Read more: Blog from Tuesday's proceedings
Jeffrey Willis is charged with her death. Heeringa went missing on April 26, 2013, from her job at a gas station in Norton Shores. The 25-year-old mother was never seen again and is presumed dead though her body has never been found.
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Jeffrey Willis was found guilty on all counts. He will be sentenced on June 12.
Jury is now deliberating.
Jurors are receiving final instructions from Judge Marietti, before they head to deliberation.
Hilson says it cannot go unnoted that 4/27/2013 included in Willis' password is indication of when she died, which, coincides with his phone records, Hilson says.
Defense just concluded, Hilson is providing rebuttal now. Says he won't take much time.
Brings up the fact that Johnson never brought up statements brought by Chrysler-Fiat expert, Lawrence Brooks. And reminds jurors that Follett never said she saw anything in particular behind the Exxon.
Johnson is wrapping, says he knows what the public thinks of his client. Asks jury to do their duty, decide on this case based on the evidence.
Johnson is still reading her diary, personal thoughts and moments being shared about her sex life with her boyfriend.
'I feel like I am never going to be able to give him a good life,' she says about her son, Sevyn. He stops reading ending on a passage where Heeringa wrote her son would've been 'better off without me.'
Reading another passage from the diary now, one where Heeringa saying things about how her family and boyfriend had treated her.
Johnson says his one witness is Ms. Heeringa -- via her journal. They printed out copies for all the jurors. He's reading a passage from her diary of her dreams of running away from life.
Johnson says Schnotala gave those underwear and gun to Willis, but got scared she would get in trouble when law enforcement approached her. Johnson says Cliff Baron was confused on the year when Willis came to work with scratches, citing Bishop, Willis' ex-wife, who said she didn't recall any scratches.
"He's a clumsy criminal...he lies all the time...and yet not one smidgen of DNA from Jessica Heeringa."
Johnson says, '[Willis] has half of Muskegon's DNA in that van, but not Jessica Heeringa's."
Johnson says his struggle was coming back from Willis' background.
"Is he creepy? Yes. Is he scary? Yes," Johnson says that doesn't mean he was there that night with Heeringa. Johnson says if Willis did not have this background the jurors would not even consider convicting him.
"I want to commend Prosecutor Hilson for not playing those porn videos...they are disgusting," Johnson said. Keeps repeating these are disgusting. Says he is not refuting that his client made some videos, but he doesn't think his client made all of them.
When that van pulled away, Miss Heeringa was in the store, Johnson says.
'You all don't know anything more about where Miss Heeringa went then you did at the beginning of this trial.'
Johnson picking apart Susan Follett's eye witness testimony.
Court is back. Johnson starts his closer shouting 'LIGHTS ON, LIGHTS OFF," referring to the light outside the Exxon station. "When you're buying heroin you'd turn the lights off so nobody can see what you're doing." Johnson says Heeringa knew what was going on. He is insinuating that Heeringa overdosed and a friend disposed of her body, or she just left, he says. Johnson says she planned to just leave.
People in the gallery shaking their head and wiping tears.
'Maybe, she's in Alaska.'
Jurors are taking a 10 minute break before defense closes.
Hilson wrapping up now, closes statement by thanking the jurors.
Hilson prepares jurors for what he believes Johnson will likely say regarding the fact that Heeringa's DNA did not appear on anything found in Willis' possession. He cites how long Willis had to clean up evidence as a possibility for this.
Hilson says Willis couldn't live out his sick fantasy if he didn't kill his victims.
"Certainly, making [Heeringa] body disappear was part of his plan," Hilson says.
"There's only one person who knows where she died."
In 2010, Willis' password was his daughter's birthdate, in 2013, he changed it to the J4L27H13. The day Heeringa died, Hilson says.
Hilson says the 3038 Bailey Street home was the perfect torture safehouse for Willis to use and make those videos a reality.
"Everybody was trying to do their best to remember," Hilson says about the mixed descriptions law enforcement received at first. "This was not a random act," Hilson says. "This was a carefully planned event in fact we know...because of the defendants cell phone records -- the night before he took the day off." Hilson says that Willis drove by the front of the Exxon prior to the kidnapping to ensure his plan would be successful, and his van was then seen driving shortly after the abduction capture by nearby surveillance cameras.
Prosecutor says he believes Willis hit Heeringa with the Walther P22 causing the laser sight cover to pop off and her blood on the sidewalk. While it was a small percentage, Willis DNA was not excluded from being on that battery cover.
Hilson also brings up testimony from Willis' coworker who said he saw scratch marks all over Willis the next day and when he made a joke about to Willis' -- he panicked and threatened to tell management.
Hilson said Heeringa being alone at work in a place with no cameras made her an easy target for Willis.
Willis had purchased that 2006 Dodge Caravan in March 2013.
His hard drive: Willis had homemade videos of young girls undressing or at swim meets and a secret video of Michelle Schnotala. As for the videos he downloaded, "Ultimately they all end the same way, they end up dead."Hilson says all the videos downloaded by Willis were thin, blonde and young. Says Willis was fascinated by 'toolbox serial killers.'
Willis created spreadsheet from 2013 with his purchases several from the Exxon, Hilson calls these 'VICS' files Willis' "personal digital trophy cases."
The toolbox: Ex-wife said she had never seen the black toolbox found in Willis' van. She said she had never seen the items inside it and Willis never would have injected her with her insulin, in fact, he had called ambulances when she had diabetic emergency. And a doctor testified that insulin of this amount could've caused shock to a non-diabetic. Hilson reminds jurors with details and pictures of everything found in his toolbox including: lube, purple dildo (which had Bletsch's DNA on it), ball gag, two video cameras, needles and insulin and gloves.
Hilson now making point that gun found without laser sight, but was sold with one -- matching the one found outside the Exxon station.
Hilson now making the point that Willis stole underwear and gun from his co-worker Michelle Schnotala. Willis made up a lie about how he got both the gun and the underwear, but according to Schnotala, they were both stolen.
"He lies about where he was that day." Hilson brings up how Willis admitted to being evasive to police.
Hilson begins by taking jurors back to Bletsch case, the spent casings found at the scene of her death and the probable DNA of hers found at the scene.
"It certainly appears this was an abduction gone wrong," Hilson says of Bletsch case. Bletsch's uncle and sister are here in the courtroom.
Now Hilson brings up Madison Nygard. 'What legitimate reason did he have for being out there...very close by..to where Bletsch was killed," said Hilson. Hilson says Willis was getting insulin ready for Nygard. Brings up again the statement Willis made in interviews 'she wasn't where I needed her to be.'
Hilson discusses the minivan and how it was identified by its black molding -- enabling experts to determine it was an early 2000s Dodge Caravan, the same model seen in surveillance video night of Heeringa's disappearance.
Hilson hammering home the point of how scared Nygard was after alleged attempted abduction.
Court is back. Defense has rested. Closing statements begin with Prosecutor D.J. Hilson.
Court is recess until 1:30 p.m.
It's going to a jury. Judge Marietti listed all the evidence that he thinks the jury could use to make a conviction of 'kidnapping and open murder', so he denied defense's request for a directed verdict.
However, this was a good way for the defense to decide what to stress in their closing arguments.
Judge says the evidence in this case is clearly and almost exclusively circumstantial, but the jury will be instructed that a body is not required if jurors believe she is dead without reasonable doubt. "Probably the most damning piece of evidence from the prosecution is that there was a cover for a laser sight from a Walther P-22 next to Heeringa's blood stain outside the Exxon," judge says.
"That puts him [Willis] in the bullseye of circumstantial evidence." That is circumstantial that would allow the jury to conclude that Ms. Heeringa was kidnaped.
Judge also points out the amount of time that Heeringa has been missing, which is more than 5 years now.
Jury is on lunch until 1:30 p.m., but Johnson is filing a motion for directed verdict of not guilty on all counts -- saying the prosecution has failed to prove their case against Willis given that there was never a body found. Hilson is defending that motion providing evidence to judge of how this case was proven including the Walther P-22, Willis' affinity for dark pornography and blonde females 'that coupled with other pieces of evidence there is plenty for the jury...as well as the silver van at the Exxon,' Hilson says.
Johnson is back up after Hilson rests and asks another question of Kasher, he asks if Susan Follett said she suspected that Heeringa was stealing. Now, Kasher is done testifying.
As a drug enforcement officer at one point, Kasher said there are several different ways an addict can get tangled in law enforcement. Hilson follows up with asking if Heeringa's disappearance was drug related, Kasher said they looked into it -- nothing proved to be relevant. "Never found anything that art any time that Heeringa was addicted" and she did not owe anyone drug money. There was no money or cigarettes missing from that Exxon store, it was one of the first things they looked for.
Kasher said that's why they believed it was something else. In Muskegon County, Kasher says a drug dealer would've taken all the money possible in this situation. Remember that $400 was left in Heeringa's purse, she had just gotten a paycheck.
Tip #268 is the one tip that came in about Willis. That's what they are discussing now. Sgt. Baker and Cpl. Hare were the ones to investigative the tip.
Again, these questions are straight from Willis voiced by his attorney. Now they are discussing Heeringa's notebook, making inquiries to make it sound like it was illegitimate.
Back to the two similar reports, Johnson said does he notice that the typos are even the same, Kasher said this is all normal essentially.
Sgt. Todd Baker and Cpl. Hare wrote two separate reports from the same instance. Their reports are very similar. Johnson is saying the reports are virtually word for word -- indicating they were plagiarized.
Johnson is asking if one officer copied the report of another officer that would not be in procedure, Kasher says he is correct.
So, they just had the jury leave. Willis is asking Johnson to ask a line of questions of Kasher that he does not advise. The judge asks Willis if he wants to move forward, 'I understand that.'
Kasher said Willis made the 'VICS' file because in case the police needed something he could reference it -- 'or something.' Kasher said Willis did not register the gun because he thought he didn't have to, which was incorrect.
Johnson asks Kasher if he recalls Willis saying he did not trust police. Kasher recalls that Willis said he did not trust police and that police make mistakes, 'that we're all human.'
Johnson now asking about third shift, a shift that Kasher worked for 19 years. Trying to make point that it's possible to have trouble sleeping, but Kasher says he had small children so he was always tired.
Johnson's questions are bouncing all over the place. He is now back to asking about Kasher's training.
Jessica Josephson, sister of Rebekah Bletsch, just entered the courtroom to watch from gallery.
Johnson asked Kasher if he remembers what Willis said regarding the gun and underwear in his possession - which both belonged to Schnotala. Kasher said Willis testified that Schnotala sold him gun for $150 (this is the Walther P-22) and Willis said there was a running joke between them and he had asked for her panties and she gave them to him.
In March of 2013, Willis said he had water damage to his basement.
Johnson also brings up the Heeringa had been injured days before she disappeared.
Cross examination has begun.
Johnson is asking if Kasher if he knows what heroin looks like. He replies yes -- says it can either be brown or off white.
Johnson asks what Kasher interpreted Heeringa's mention of 'brown extracurricular' -- Kasher says he interpreted this as heroin.
Then Johnson moves on.
Norton Shores Police Lt. Michael Kasher is back on the stand. His testimony was cut short yesterday, so he will conclude this morning. He is the lead detective on the Heeringa case, and he is also the State's final witness.
Kasher is recounting the process of interviewing Willis when he was first arrested. Willis said he went to the Exxon station around 5:00 p.m. on April 26, 2013 to purchase some gum.
Prosecutor D.J. Hilson is asking about Madison Nygard, the teen who was allegedly abducted by Willis, before she jumped out of his van.
Willis admitted during police interviews that he did take secret videos of his co-worker Michelle Schnotala and videos of young girls at swim meets.
Willis also admitted that he placed the Walther P22 (the gun taken from his co-worker) in his lockbox.
Prosecutor wrapped questions at 10:31 a.m.
Court has begun.
Court expected to begin shortly.
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