Jury selection continues in trial of Jeffrey Willis for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch

Posted at 11:40 AM, Oct 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-18 19:09:46-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. -- Wednesday was the second day of jury selection for the trial of Jeffrey Willis, who is accused of murdering local mother Rebekah Bletsch.

In June 2014 Bletsch was shot dead while jogging about a mile away from her home in Muskegon County.

Defendant Jeffrey Willis in May 2016 when he was charged with Rebekah Bletsch's murder (left), then pictured October 2017 during a motions hearing (right).

Beginning Wednesday morning, Muskegon County Circuit Judge William Marietti is first reminding prospective jurors once this trial begins it is estimated to last three weeks.

The different voir dire process in this high-profile case continues: the clerk brings people from the jury pool individually into the courtroom for attorneys' questioning. As of Wednesday morning, the majority of people questioned are called back for continued questioning beginning Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

By Wednesday evening before 6 p.m., more than 76 potential jurors were interviewed, of whom at least 50 are called back for further questioning Thursday. The goal the court agreed upon was narrowing the 326 summoned to a jury pool of 50.

As always, during voir dire no cameras are allowed into the courtroom. Willis is now dressed in a suit with a fresh hair cut. He is also actively speaking to his attorney, Muskegon County Chief Public Defender Fred Johnson, at times guiding continued questioning of each potential juror.

Johnson continues to ask people in the jury pool what they may know about the case, whether they have any opinions as to Willis' innocence or guilt, and almost always about their online presence: do they read or watch news, have a screen name, or make any comments responding to news articles online?

Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson begins each round of questioning ultimately asking each prospective juror if they can remain fair if sat on this jury. Hilson is mostly direct in asking if each individual can follow jury instructions and keep any previous knowledge of this case separate from the evidence that will be introduced in trial.

Willis is charged in several open cases including: the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Heeringa in April 2013, and the abduction of a 16-year-old girl in April 2016. These crimes, including the murder of Rebekah Bletsch, happened within a roughly 12-mile radius of Willis' home at the time.

Stay with FOX 17 throughout this trial for updates.