MUSKEGON, Mich.-- The day after Jeffery Willis was found guilty of first degree murder, Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson shared his thoughts on the trial.
Willis was found guilty on Thursday for the 2014 premeditated murder of Rebekah Bletsch, who was shot and killed while jogging near her home in Muskegon County.
Hilson says it has been a long three weeks for everyone involved. He says this case is one that will stick with him.
"When you're talking about almost three weeks of just grinding and exerting every mind and body part, it does take its toll, so I'm feeling good," said Hilson. "I could probably use one more night of solid sleep and then I should be good to go."
Hilson says he, along with the rest of the community, are getting some much-needed rest after a grueling three weeks. The murder trial is being called a turning point in Hilson's career.
"It's certainly a case that I'll never forget and it's probably the biggest case that I ever handled and hopefully will ever handle," said Hilson. "I don't necessarily want to see this happen again in Muskegon County, but I just appreciate the experience."
It's a job Hilson says he was born to do.
"I've always wanted to be a prosecutor," said Hilson. "I've never wavered on that. To be able to be a part of something like this and be able to provide this kind of service not only to the community, but the victim's family as well, this is what I want to do. This is a huge turning point for me and I'm just happy to have had that opportunity."
In a trial with particularly gruesome evidence, Hilson says he's fortunate to have a team of investigators who went through a majority of videos and pictures on Willis' hard drives, so he didn't have to.
"I did watch a little of the jogger video and I got to a point where I couldn't watch it anymore," said Hilson. "I was satisfied that what I was being told by investigators was accurate."
As far as the trials for Jessica Heeringa and the 16-year-old girl being referred to as MJN, Hilson says they're going to give the community a chance to breathe first.
"We're certainly going to let the community digest what has happened over the last three weeks, including the verdict yesterday, and certainly let Mr. Willis be sentenced for the conviction involving Ms. Bletsch, and then I'm certain at some point in time, Mr. Johnson and I will talk to the court about when we put the Jessica Heeringa case on the trial docket. I think it's important to let the community digest this, let the information and heat and the dust settle, and then move forward on the next case."
Hilson wants to thank the investigators involved in the case as well as the entire Muskegon community for their hard work and support.
"Because of their hard work and their dedication to this community, we were able to put together a really good case to convict Mr. Willis of this crime. Many members of the community, some of them who I know and some who I don't know, have been very supportive and telling me they were thinking of me and praying for me. That to me not only put a little extra pressure on me, but also made me feel really proud of representing Muskegon County in this particular case."
Jeffery Willis will be sentenced for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch on December 18. Hilson says they'll the other trials will likely happen sometime in 2018.