LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — In nearly 300 pages of police reports obtained by 24 Hour News 8, there is no information that directly connects accused murderer Jeffrey Willis to the abduction of Jessica Heeringa three years ago.
The reports from Michigan State Police, obtained Thursday through the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily redacted. However, they reveal some new details about the investigation into Heeringa’s April 26, 2013 disappearance from the Norton Shores gas station where she worked.
Among them is a tip from a store cashier that she thought Heeringa may have had a stalker. In the tip labeled No. 440, a cashier from Kmart on Apple Avenue reported she had seen a man with Heeringa at the store in February 2013 and Heeringa later said he was one of her customers from the gas station. Police had hoped to find the man’s image on store surveillance video, but it had already been erased by the time the tip came in.
Jeffrey Willis, who now stands accused of a 2014 murder and an attempted abduction earlier this year, was a regular at the gas station on Sternberg Road where Heeringa worked, but the 2013 police reports do not identify him. The reports do not contain any details that could possibly connect Willis to the disappearance.
The documents contain an interview with Willis from May 17, 2016 — the day of his arrest for the kidnapping — but all 28 pages of that interview were redacted.
Willis has been named a person of interest in Heeringa’s disappearance, but has so far not been called a suspect. In a separate police report previously obtained by 24 Hour News 8, MSP said it was believed that Willis killed Heeringa. However, a law enforcement source told 24 Hour News 8 police don’t yet have enough evidence to charge him.
A source has told 24 Hour News 8 that Willis had information on Heeringa in a computer file he had labeled “VICS,” short for “victims.” The MSP reports 24 Hour News 8 obtained Thursday included what was found on Willis’s computers and hard drives, but any possible information on Heeringa was removed.
Willis owns a silver minivan similar to the one police were searching for in the Heeringa case; his co-workers said he frequented her gas station, which is between his Muskegon Township home and workplace in Spring Lake; and a source said he wasn’t at work in the days after police say she was abducted.
The MSP documents obtained Thursday also contain another interview with Kevin Bluhm, Willis’s cousin who is charged with lying to police about Willis’s possible involvement with the Heeringa case. All 30 pages were entirely redacted.
THE INVESTIGATION INTO JEFFREY WILLIS
Willis, 46, of Muskegon Township, was arrested in May for allegedly trying to abduct a 16-year-old girl in Fruitland Township in April. She managed to escape by jumping from a moving vehicle. He was charged with kidnapping and assault with a dangerous weapon.
After his arrest, police found a gun in his minivan that they matched to the one used in the June 2014 killing of Rebekah Bletsch in Dalton Township. Willis was charged with murder in that case.
The “VICS” file on an external hard drive also contained a folder labeled with Bletsch’s initials and a code for the date of her death, investigators testified in court. In that folder were photos of Bletsch and wanted posters from the case.
Willis has also been charged with felonies for the creation and possession of child pornography and for videotaping unclothed underage girls without their knowledge. Authorities say the child porn and videos were found when investigators searched his computers and hard drives. They also say they found necrophilia and “kidnap and kill” videos downloaded from the internet — some of which were acting and others that were real.
Also found in Willis’ minivan were syringes, handcuffs, a chain, two video cameras, images of bound and gagged women, and sexual toys, among other things.
Willis’s cousin, Bluhm, is also charged with lying to police in the Bletsch murder investigation.
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