Jeffrey Willis charged with murder of Rebekah Bletsch

Posted at 9:13 AM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-25 16:28:20-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. — A kidnapping suspect is now facing open murder charges in connection to the 2014 unsolved killing of jogger Rebekah Bletsch.

The Muskegon County Prosecutor filed the charges Wednesday morning against Jeffrey Willis, who was arrested last week for attempting to abduct a 16-year-old girl in April.

Jeffrey Willis is now charged with  one count of open murder and one count of felony firearms in connection to the June 2014 shooting death of Bletsch. Police said the 36-year-old mother was out jogging less than a mile from her home in rural Dalton Township when she was shot and left for dead. She had been shot in the head, none of her belongings were taken.

Willis was arraigned Wednesday afternoon.  He did not have an attorney at the hearing, so the judge entered a 'not guilty' plea on behalf of Willis.  The judge also denied bond for Willis. Several of Bletsch's relatives watched on as the judge read the charges against Willis.

Asked about a possible motive, Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said other than being "sick individual," he couldn't possibly imagine. Investigators said they know of no connection between Bletsch and Willis and believe their encounter was random.

An arrest "absolutely" brings relief to investigators, Hilson told reporters, but cautioned there is still a long road ahead.

“I was at the scene that night that this happened and I've been working with investigators from day one on this," he said. "Any time you can close a case of this magnitude is a good day, but we’re only in the beginning stages."

Last week, Jeffrey Willis was arrested and charged with an attempted abduction that happened in April.  In the arrest, investigators found a gun that matched the size of the gun used in the Bletsch murder.  Ballistics tests confirmed a match to the shell casings found at the scene where Bletsch was shot, according to court documents.

Hilson said he and the Bletsch family consider the teen who escaped Willis a "hero" and say her actions set these latest findings into motion.

Bletsch’s family was seated in the front row during the prosecutor’s announcement Monday morning. Her mother and sisters appeared emotional, while her father spoke to media following the announcement.

“It’s been a rough couple years but we’ve had our faith and trust in law enforcement and they haven’t let us down," Bletsch's father said.

Later Wednesday, in an exclusive one-on-one interview with FOX 17, Bletsch's sisters saidthey felt shocked and numb from learning what police suspect Willis of doing to their loved one.

"You expect to feel good or relieved and it’s not that at all; and then you see what’s attached to it—who they think did it—he’s a sick individual," said Jessica Jospehson.

Monday, prosecutors also announced Willis is facing four counts of possessing child sexually abusive material and four courts of using a computer to commit a crime, based on evidence found at Willis' home after his arrest.

Police said they were also investigating Willis for the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa from a Norton Shores gas station in 2013.  Hilson said Wednesday's announcement had nothing to do with the Heeringa investigation.