GUILTY: Jeffrey Willis convicted of murder of Rebekah Bletsch

MUSKEGON, Mich. - A Muskegon County jury has convicted Jeffrey Willis in the June 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch.

Willis was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder and felony firearms.

Willis is also charged in the murder and disappearance of Jessica Heeringa in 2013 and an abduction attempt of a teen in 2016. Those trials have not yet taken place.

The Rebekah Bletsch trial lasted almost three weeks.  The jury deliberated for just over an hour after closing arguments Thursday.

"It's been 40 months since she was murdered and about 16 months since he was captured and we're happy that it turned out like this," said Bletsch's father Nick Winberg. "I really thought it would because, I mean, the prosecutor had so much strong evidence against Willis."

 

Bletsch was shot and killed while jogging near her home June 29, 2014.

"She was a strong woman, as soon as she saw a weapon she took off but he just turned it on her," Winberg said after the verdict was announced. "She was ambushed so fast, her life ended within 2 to 3 minutes at the hands of an evil madman."

Willis will be sentenced Dec. 18. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Closing arguments

Before the verdict, both the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments.  Muskegon County DJ Hilson said Bletsch's murder wasn't random but planned in advance.

“He also carries with him, not only the gun, but also the tools to incapacitate a victim," Hilson said. "So gun makes them not move and freeze, insulin knocks them out. I want you also to consider the fact that he had this little list, that rape kit note found [at Willis' grandfather's abandoned house], his checklist. This wasn’t a random act against Miss Bletsch, this was well thought out. And he made sure he had the tools with him to essentially commit the crime.”

Willis' defense attorney Fred Johnson argued that Willis' cousin Kevin Bluhm was the one who killed Rebekah Bletsch.

“We believe that Kevin Bluhm is your murderer," Johnson said in court. "Kevin Bluhm knew Mrs. Bletsch. Kevin Bluhm stalked her on Facebook. Kevin Bluhm held photos of her in his cellphone. Kevin Bluhm found out where she lived. Kevin Bluhm destroyed evidence the day after there was an arrest in this case. Kevin Bluhm knew where Mr. Willis’s gun was. Kevin Bluhm knew that it was a .22, that the serial numbers were obliterated. Kevin Bluhm obsessed, obsessed over Mrs. Bletsch.”

Bluhm is in custody for being an accessory after the fact in the Bletsch murder.