Murder trial of Willis ends for day; juror falls ill

Posted at 8:52 AM, May 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-15 18:28:17-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. - Testimony continues into a second week Tuesday morning in the Jeffrey Willis murder trial.

Willis is on trial for the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Heeringa in 2013.  Heeringa has not been seen since she disappeared from the gas station where she worked in Norton Shores.  Her body has not been found.

Testimony throughout last week has included forensics experts, co-workers of both Willis and Heeringa, and Willis' ex-wife Charlene Bishop.

Prosecutor DJ Hilson indicated to FOX 17 last week that he may rest his case Tuesday.  If that happens, Fred Johnson, Willis' attorney could start calling witnesses Tuesday as well.  Johnson told FOX 17 that he expects the jury to get the case in the next couple of days.

Tuesday's testimony focused on forensics used in the investigation. Michigan State Police Sgt. James McDonald testified about tracking the silver van used by Willis on the night of Heeringa's disappearance using surveillance cameras in the area. He also testified how MSP tracks cell phones and that Willis had his cell phone off on the day after Heeringa was last seen.

Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Zachary Sparks testified about first meeting up with Willis in his van in 2016. He says he found sex toys in the van.

He also talked about searching Willis' grandfather's former home on Bailey Street and finding about 12 empty bleach bottles, which he called "peculiar."  They found a list, which was confirmed to be written by Willis', of clothing and camera equipment.

Afternoon testimony included more forensics evidence found at the gas station where Heeringa worked.

Willis is currently serving a sentence of life in prison for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch in 2014.  During that trial, Willis took the stand in his own defense.

Court adjourned for the day just before 4:00 p.m. while the prosecutor was on his final witness.  One of the jurors told the court they were feeling ill.  Judge William Marietti ended court for the day to give the juror more time to get better.  The trial will not resume until 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday.

Doug Reardon will have more from Muskegon on later editions of FOX 17 News.