Willis found guilty in Heeringa murder case

Posted at 6:42 PM, May 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-16 22:11:18-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. -- A Muskegon County jury has found Jeffrey Willis guilty of the murder of Jessica Heeringa.

After several days of testimony, both the prosecution and defense rested their cases Wednesday afternoon.  Jurors deliberated less than two hours before they found Willis guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping charges.

Willis is already serving a life sentence after being found guilty in the 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch. He showed no emotion as the verdicts were read Wednesday, and he quickly was escorted from the courtroom.

Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson embraced police investigators who worked for years to build the state's case. Hilson presented a mostly circumstantial case. He told jurors that Willis had computer files containing information about Bletsch and Heeringa.

Heeringa vanished from the Norton Shores gas station where she worked in 2013.  Although her body has not been found, Hilson said there was ample evidence to convict Willis in her death.

But defense attorney Fred Johnson argued there was no evidence Willis killed or kidnapped Heeringa, a woman the public defender described as "living a tumultuous life."

"I've never had a case like this. I don't think there's been any cases like this," Johnson said.

Willis will be sentenced in the Heeringa case June 12. He also is expected to stand trial for the 2016 attempted kidnapping of a teenager.

The Associated Press contributed to this report