MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who authorities say helped his cousin, Jeffrey Willis, move Jessica Heeringa’s body is a free man.
Kevin Bluhm walked out of the Muskegon County jail around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, hours after Judge William Marietti sentenced him to time served for being an accessory after the fact in Jessica Heeringa’s murder.
Protesters who gathered outside the jail angrily shouted “your silence kills” at Bluhm as he climbed into a car surrounded by authorities and left. The protesters spent hours outside, holding signs and chanting “Where is Jessica?” as they waited for Bluhm.
Among the protesters were loved ones of Rebekah Bletsch, who believe Bluhm could have prevented her June 2014 murder if he’d come forward about Willis after Heeringa’s disappearance the year prior.
“Your silence killed my sister,” Blestch’s sister, Jessica Josephson, said she would tell Bluhm. “He’s a murderer. There’s nothing more to say than that.”
Bletsch’s mother told 24 Hour News 8 she thinks Bluhm needs more time in prison.
“I think it’s a disgrace. We suffer and he gets to live the life of luxury? (It’s) not right, not fair at all,” Debra Reamer said.
>>Photos: Kevin Bluhm release protest
During sentencing, the judge pointed out that state sentencing guidelines called for between zero to nine months behind bars for the crime, but Bluhm had already spent 476 days behind bars. Marietti also ordered Bluhm to serve five years of probation and wear a GPS tether, as conditions for his release.
Muskegon County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Roberts urged the judge to add the electronic tether as part of Bluhm’s probation restrictions “to drive home to Mr. Bluhm the point that the eyes of this court, the eyes of law enforcement and indeed the eyes of the community will be upon him as he walks through this probationary term.”
The prosecutor’s office believes Bluhm has information that could be damaging to their case against Willis and “could bring some measure of closure” to Heeringa’s family.
Bluhm’s attorney didn’t challenge the sentencing agreement, only renewing his objection to a jail credit based on the original charge filed against Bluhm.
>>App users: Watch Bluhm’s sentencing here.
Bluhm’s sentencing lasted about 10 minutes, during which Roberts called the case a “very serious matter” that had a ripple effect on the community.
“In fact this case doesn’t have a ripple effect, it has a tidal wave. And Mr. Bluhm’s silence, as it related to the incidents to which he is an accessory after the fact in assisting Mr. Willis in covering up this heinous crime that was committed against Jessica Heeringa, swept up in that tidal wave the lives of Rebekah Bletsch and almost swept up the life of MJN,” Roberts said.
Bluhm, a former state prison guard, told investigators he helped his cousin bury Heeringa’s body not far from Willis’ home north of Muskegon. He then said that was a lie, leading to a perjury charge and eventual guilty plea.
But authorities say they think at least part of what Bluhm told detectives was true, which is why he was charged with being an accessory. Bluhm pleaded no contest to the accessory charge a day before his trial was set to begin.
Heeringa’s body wasn’t found where Bluhm said he and Willis left it, but Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said authorities think Willis moved it later.
>>Inside woodtv.com: The Jeffrey Willis investigation
“If Mr. Bluhm had said something… Rebekah may very well be alive today and MJN would not have been placed in the danger that she was placed in by Mr. Willis,” Roberts added during Tuesday’s hearing.
Bletsch’s family and other supporters filled the courtroom for Bluhm’s sentencing, wearing shirts stating “Your silence killed!”
Bluhm only spoke two words during his sentencing, saying “yes, sir” to the judge when asked if he reviewed the sentencing agreement.
In the meantime, he’s in a state prison on a life sentence after being convicted in November of murdering Rebekah Bletsch, who was shot and killed as she jogged near her rural Muskegon County home in June 2014.
***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the prosecutor. We regret this error, which has since been corrected.***