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Judge denies motion to close Willis preliminary hearing

Posted at 5:37 PM, Nov 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-30 17:59:23-05

MUSKEGON, Mich. —  A judge has denied the motion to close a preliminary hearing in the case of Jessica Heeringa, and cameras will be allowed inside the courtroom.

Lawyers for Jeffrey Willis filed the motion, saying the case has gotten too much media attention and could make it difficult for Willis to get a fair trial.

On Wednesday, the judge ruled against the defense, saying closing the hearing would violate basic rights to a public trial and freedom of the press.

Willis is accused of killing Heeringa, who disappeared from the Norton Shores gas station where she worked in 2013.

He's also charged in the 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch.  The judge pointed out that despite high interest in that case, the defense did not ask for that hearing to be closed.

Willis was arrested this spring after allegedly abducting a 16-year-old girl who was able to escape.