Detectives tracked abduction suspect Jeffrey Willis days before arrest

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Jeffrey Willis stares into the crowd and TV cameras during his preliminary exam.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Court documents show police had been watching murder suspect Jeffrey Willis days before his arrest.

An affidavit for a search warrant shows authorities had kept an eye on Willis after he was identified as a suspect in an abduction attempt on April 16 involving a teenage girl walking home from a party.

Deputies say she was approached by a driver in a mini-van near Green Creek Road and River Road, and that the driver had offered her his cell phone if she got in the car. When she got in, the driver told the teen that his phone was dead. The driver then allegedly pointed a gun at her after locking the doors and windows. She managed to escape by manually unlocking a door and jumping out of the van.

The driver reportedly tried to chase after the girl for a short distance, insisting the gun was a fake and that he was just joking around with her. The girl got away safely to a nearby house where she was able to use a telephone.

A van matching the description offered by the girl was caught on surveillance tape nearby at the Sodini Blueberry Farms. It was identified as a Dodge Caravan with three key features: 15-inch steel wheels, a satellite radio antenna, and a bright silver body color. Detectives narrowed their search to mini-vans in that area with those features, finding the one registered to Jeffrey Willis.

On May 11, officers say they found Willis’ van at the Meijer on Harvey Street, driving slowly up and down several parking lot aisles without ever getting out of his vehicle. The next day, the teen was presented with a photo line-up that included Willis’ photo. She identified Willis as her potential abductor.

He was arrested days later on May 17. He is facing charges for the April abduction attempt, as well as murder charges in the 2014 shooting death of Rebekah Bletsch.

Willis is a person of interest in the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa, who vanished during an overnight shift at a Norton Shores gas station in 2013.

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