Dad believes son lied to protect Jeffrey Willis in Heeringa case

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MUSKEGON, Mich. — A prison officer has been charged with lying to police in the case of a man who is a suspect in the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa.

Prosecutors say the information Kevin Bluhm withheld is so significant, they refused to talk about it in court Tuesday. Bluhm, a sergeant at West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon, was suspended without pay June 17, according to Michigan Department of Corrections Spokesman Chris Gautz.

Bluhm's father, Tom Bluhm, told FOX 17 his son was probably trying to protect his cousin, Jeffrey Willis. "They were friends and hung around with each other and played poker," said Bluhm. "I just wish he would tell them the truth. He didn’t do anything except try and protect Jeff, possibly."

Bluhm was charged with obstruction Monday for comments he allegedly made about his contact with Willis. The alleged comments in connectino with the investigation into the 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch.

Willis is charged with Bletsch's murder as well as with the April kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl.

Tuesday, Bluhm was in court facing an additional felony charge of lying to a peace officer, this time about information tied to the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa, who was abducted from work at a gas station in Norton Shores back in 2013.

Tom Bluhm told FOX 17 he's definitely heard Heeringa's name brought up while spending time with his son. "All us guys got together to play poker," said Bluhm. "Somehow, Jessica came up, and Jeff was sitting next to me playing poker, and his head just went down like that. I looked at him kind of funny, ya know? Like, what the hell, ya know?"

Prosecutor Matt Roberts says Bluhm has admitted lying to police in all three investigations when asked about Willis. He says the details are "significant."

Crews are now searching Willis' current and former residence for any clues to Heeringa's disappearance.

Willis is due back in court Wednesday in connection with the Bletsch murder.

Bluhm is scheduled for another court appearance later this month.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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