MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A fresh face in the Jeffrey Willis case delivered new evidence against him Thursday in the Jessica Heeringa murder trial. 

Janis Horton says she cut Willis’ hair for about 14 years, including at the time Heeringa disappeared from the Norton Shores gas station where she worked. Horton told the jury Thursday that she noticed a change in Willis’ personality in 2013 – the same year as Heeringa’s abduction.

Horton also said Willis would often ask her to highlight the front section of his hair blond.

Heeringa’s coworker, Susan Follett, previously testified that the male driver she saw pull up behind the gas station the night Heeringa disappeared had hair with blond highlights. However, unlike Willis’ current appearance, the suspect sketch showed a man with longer hair, no facial hair and no glasses.

Prosecutor D.J. Hilson focused his questions on the possibility that Willis was wearing contacts the night Heeringa was abducted – the found a pair of contacts in the toolbox found under the seat in Willis’ silver minivan. Follett also said the sketch was closer to what she remembered, but by no means an exact match.

>>Inside Complete coverage of the Willis investigation | Blog: Day 3 of testimony

Jurors also heard from the man who sold Willis’ coworker the gun found in Willis’ minivan. Gary Foster said the Walther P22 had a laser sight attached to it at that time that was powered by two batteries that would “take some serious force” to remove.


A detective testified while the inside of the store looked undisturbed, he found a pair of batteries and a battery cover matching the laser sight for a Walther P22 handgun outside the rear door of the gas station the night Heeringa disappeared. He also found a blood stain on the pavement, which Michigan State Police Forensic Scientist David Hayhurst said matched Heeringa.

“Barring an identical twin… I would not expect to find this DNA profile in any individuals in the world right now,” Hayhurst said.

Follett testified the rear door to the building would lock from the outside, and the rear light of the store was required to be on.  She said that light was out at the time of Heeringa’s disappearance.

The defense tried to use time to their advantage; the investigator who found the blood droplet outside the gas station couldn’t confirm how long it had been there. Neither could Hayhurst.


Jurors also heard several hours of testimony from Hayhurst and Michigan State Police Forensics Scientist Michelle Schmitt, who tested evidence taken from Willis’ minivan. Their accounts also included the results of new DNA mixture tests conducted in January of this year.Hayhurst said swabs of the Walther P22 matched Willis’ DNA. However, both he and Schmitt said there wasn’t enough DNA on the batteries or sight cover to make a match.

None of the samples from items taken from the vehicle matched Heeringa’s DNA. In fact, her DNA was excluded from several items.

The DNA experts did find a few items with a mix of DNA that was more likely from Rebekah Bletsch and Willis than unknown unrelated individuals. Those items included a set of handcuffs found in the lockbox under the driver’s seat of the minivan, a sex toy, and a pair of Reebok gloves.

Willis is already serving a life sentence in a state prison for murdering Bletsch as she jogged down a rural Muskegon County road in June 2014. In phone interviews with Target 8 earlier this year, he denied killing her or Heeringa.

Willis’ DNA profile also popped up on other items, including a video camera battery with a blood stain, a camera bag from his shed, a ball gag, another set of handcuffs that included a long chain, a Mizuno glove, Adidas gloves and leather restraints.

The experts said a mix of DNA on several items more likely included DNA from Willis than someone else, including the manual side door lock of the minivan.

In questioning Hayhurst, Public Defender Fred Johnson once again pointed out how most of the items tested in the toolbox were “comingled,” and DNA could have been transferred from one item to another. He brought up this issue during the Bletsch murder trial as well.

However, Hayhurst said there was no large blood or fluid stains seen on any of the items in the toolbox that would raise his concerns about DNA transferring.

None of the new tests indicated that Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm, contributed any DNA to the items swabbed. In the Bletsch murder trial, the defense tried to blame Bluhm for the crime.

Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson told 24 Hour News 8 he included the DNA evidence, even the inconclusive tests, to be transparent. He said it is important that the jury knows investigators were exhaustive in their analysis of every piece of evidence and to dull any contention by the defense that anything has been hidden from them.

Hilson said he knows that the lack of DNA evidence in the case is going to be the hardest thing to overcome. By facing it head-on, he frames the issue in the light best for his case.

Testimony in Willis’ trial is expected to resume at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

>>Photos: Willis on trial for Heeringa murder