MUSKEGON, Mich. – The trial of Jeffrey Willis for the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Heeringa has been delayed until May.
Willis waived his right to having his trial within 180 days of notice from the Department of Corrections, which would have put the trial in March. He also waived his rights to the trial dates for his other cases, including the abduction of a teen in the spring of 2016, known as MJH.
Willis is accused of abducting and killing Jessica Heeringa in April 2013. She was working the night shift at a Norton Shores gas station when she disappeared. Her body has not been found.
Willis was convicted in December of killing Rebekah Bletsch in 2014 in Muskegon County. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Willis’ attorney asked for a delay based on several issues from not being able to discuss the case with Willis due to his being in quarantine in prison and creating a trial transcript from the Bletsch trial. He estimated that it will take another two months to get the transcript complete. He also cited fears about holding a trial with jurors and dozens of people in court during flu season.
Prosecutor D.J. Hilson objected, citing technology in place to help connect the defense with Willis. Willis is being held in Ionia. He also dismissed the flu argument saying that summer will be harder to get witnesses and jurors together. He also said that the upcoming trial should be similar to the Bletsch murder trial and it should not take long to prepare.
Judge William Marietti agreed with the defense saying he understands that the long Bletsch murder trial will take long to transcribe, with just having one transcription service available. He asked that the trial be set for early May.
An exact date will be forthcoming.