Heeringa’s boyfriend expected to testify at Willis trial

Jeffrey Willis Investigation

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The boyfriend of Jessica Heeringa and father of her son will testify during Jeffrey Willis’ trial for her kidnapping and murder.

That revelation came during Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson’s opening statement Tuesday morning. 

Hilson spent an hour laying out his case against Willis. 

“You’re going to see the deep, dark and evil side of Jeffrey Willis,” he said.

Hilson said the evidence he will present includes surveillance video of a silver minivan seen at a blueberry farm; items collected from Willis’ shed, including two pairs of women’s underwear and a list of serial killers; a toolbox that contained sex toys and a diagram showing injection sites; a small safe with a Walther P22 handgun, gloves, syringes and Viagra; and hard drives that contained hundreds of videos depicting women being abducted, tortured, raped and killed, as well as two digital folders labeled with the initials of Heeringa and Rebekah Bletsch that contained information about their cases.

What jurors won’t hear about is the videos of murder porn and necrophilia that authorities found on Willis’ electronic devices. Judge William Marietti ruled it inadmissible, saying some of it was too graphic and potentially prejudicial.

>>Photos: Willis on trial for Heeringa murder

Public Defender Fred Johnson said Heeringa was “living a very tumultuous life,” describing how she was working at a gas station and didn’t know if her child was in a good environment.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Willis trial Day 1 blog | Complete coverage of Jeffrey Willis investigation

“You’ll hear from her. She kept a journal,” Johnson promised jurors.

Johnson also said he would show conflicting stories from witnesses, as well as a lack of evidence.

“What you won’t hear is that no one has ever seen him …  assault Ms. Heeringa, no one has ever seen him drug Ms. Heeringa… you will not have evidence that he killed or kidnapped Ms. Heeringa,” Johnson said. 

Willis’ defender spent about 10 minutes delivering his opening statement.

“I’ll be only trying the one case and not the three of four that were described to you this morning,” he pointedly said, taking aim at previous disputes in court about whether evidence from Rebekah Bletsch’s murder and the attempted abduction of a teenager dubbed MJN should be allowed at this trial.

FIRST WITNESS: ‘PLEASE DON’T SHOOT ME’

MJN was the one who identified Willis, leading to his arrest and eventual charges in the murders of Bletsch and Heeringa. She was the first witness to take the stand. 

MJN recounted how she went to a party where she drank alcohol and smoked marijuana. MJN said when she got ready to leave the party, she found her friend locked himself in the vehicle she was supposed to leave in, so she started walking home.

MJN said she didn’t know what road she was on. That’s when Willis pulled up in a silver minivan. MJN testified she asked Willis to use his phone, and that’s when he told her to get in. When she climbed into the vehicle, he rolled up the window and told her his phone had died, she said.  

She said Willis never stopped the vehicle when she asked him to let her out. She testified that when he pulled a gun out from underneath his seat, she unlocked the door and jumped out of the moving vehicle, falling to the ground.

“(I had to) run for my life… I thought he was going to hurt me,” she said.

MJN said when she turned around to look at Willis, he was standing behind his van with a gun aimed at her. 

“I asked him to please don’t shoot me,” MJN recounted.

“She was very scared, very afraid,” said the woman who answered the door of the home MJN ran to.

Jurors heard a recording of the 911 call she made.

“I want my mom, I want my mom,” the teen said in between sobs and describing what happened.

Johnson, the public defender, cast doubt on MJN’s sobriety and clarity of mind at the time of the alleged incident. She admitted she hadn’t slept in 24 hours, but said she was sober at the time of the abduction attempt.

Deputy Jeff Blackmer testified MJN did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or marijuana and he couldn’t smell alcohol on her breath.

EVIDENCE UNCOVERED

Detectives who examined the scene said they found two damaged bullets that appeared to have been run over by a vehicle, a broken bluish purple fake fingernail matching the ones MJN was wearing at the time of the incident and a pair of shoes lying along the shoulder of the road.

Jurors also heard testimony from five deputies and detectives, who recounted evidence found on Willis’ property, at the other crime scenes and in Willis’ silver minivan, which matched the description of the vehicle shown on surveillance video around the time of the attempted abduction of MJN.

In the minivan, detectives testified they found a black metal toolbox containing a ball gag, J-hook, two pairs of disposable gloves, ammunition, a leather glove, a pair of Reebok leather gloves, chains, sex toys, rope, restraints, lubricant, two letters with names and addresses, an empty prescription bottle, two keys, and a diagram of injection sites on the top of the toolbox.

In another lockbox underneath the driver’s seat a detective described finding seven blue pills, a vial of insulin, four syringes with orange caps, a magazine and a cartridge for the pistol. They said they also found a .22-caliber handgun, although Detective Matt Schultz said Willis had told him he didn’t have a handgun in his vehicle or airsoft gun.

Willis’ fingerprints were found on a list and one of the toolboxes, one detective said. Another testified that eBay records show a safe matching the one found in Willis minivan was paid for using a PayPal account connected to Willis’ checking account.

In the shed at Willis’ home, detectives said they found panties wrapped in foil inside a Ziploc bag in between joists and a five-page printed list of serial killers.

In Willis’ home on South Sheridan, Detective Lisa Ferris says she found a Jan. 29, 2013 receipt with Jessica Heeringa’s name showing a gasoline purchase with Willis’ credit card information. 

CHANGING STORIES

When questioned about what he was doing the day of MJN’s abduction, Willis said he slept in and said he didn’t think he left his home that day, according to Schultz.  When presented receipts for that day, Willis’ story changed to include possible stops to get an oil change and pet treats, Schultz said.

“I didn’t really get a straight answer on where he was or who was with him,” Schultz said.

Johnson focused on what was not found at the scenes, including a gun sight that would match the Walther P22 pistol found in Willis’ minivan. 

He also questioned how long the bullets found at the scene of MJN’s attempted abduction had been there. Blackmer said the bullet appeared to be weathered in testimony, but his written statement said it was “still shiny.”

Willis has already been sentenced to life in a state prison for the June 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch. He has denied killing both women.

Testimony in Willis’ trial is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

>>App users:Interactive timeline of Willis investigation

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