Jeffrey Willis, the 46-year-old Muskegon Township man accused of attempting to kidnap one woman and murdering another, was present in court recently for his preliminary hearing. Willis is charged with kidnapping, open murder, and felony firearm. In a separate case, he is also charged with possession of child pornography.
The case stems from an incident that took place in Fruitport Township in April 2016. A 16-year-old girl said that she was lost and had climbed into Willis’ van in order to use his cell phone. She claims that he then locked the doors and started to pull out a handgun. She says that she was able to escape the vehicle and run to a nearby house where she sought help.
Additionally, police officers are currently investigating leads that connection Willis to the deaths of Jessica Heeringa and Rebekah Bletsch. Heeringa disappeared in April of 2013 from the Michigan gas station where she worked. Bletch was shot to death while jogging near her home in Dalton Township in 2014.
At the preliminary hearing, Michigan State Police Sgt. Chris Prevette provided testimony about some of the videos that forensic investigators found while searching Wilis’ computer. The videos are called “kidnap and kill” videos. They depict women being chased down, sexually assaulted, and then murdered. According to Prevette, some of these videos were performed by actors, but others were real depictions of assaults and murders.
Prevette told the court that the videos “depicted individuals pulling up alongside of females on the side of the road. When they approached her, that female took off running into a field. Once in the field, they chase after her, attack her and sexually assault her. There were other videos depicting the same thing where at the end of the video they murder. They show this in an acting way, and we also found videos that showed this that are not acting.”
Another witness, a former coworker of Willis, testified that she had once told Willis that she owned a ,22 caliber handgun. Shortly thereafter, the handgun went missing and was recently recovered inside a locked box in Willis’ van. Police had said that the gun in question is linked to Bletch’s murder but have not provided details.
During this particular court appearance, the prosecutor’s office lodged three new charges against Willis, claiming that he used a hidden camera inside the bathroom in his home to film women using the restroom. The new charges are for surveilling an unclothed person.
Willis is currently being held at the Muskegon County Jail on a $1 million bond. If convicted of first degree murder, Willis will spend the rest of his life behind bars with the Michigan Department of Corrections.