MUSKEGON, Mich. – More details of the day that Rebekah Bletsch was murdered were discussed in the trial of Jeffrey Willis on Wednesday, including an alibi for his cousin Kevin Bluhm, who the defense accused of murdering Bletsch.
Willis is accused of shooting and killing Bletsch on June 29, 2014 while she was out on a jog near her home. Willis is also accused of kidnapping and murdering Jessica Heeringa in 2013; though he is not on trial for that crime at this time, much evidence from that case has been introduced.
Former co-worker’s underwear and gun stolen
In court Wednesday, the first witness was Michelle Schnotala, a former co-worker of Willis’ at Herman Miller. She said that she purchased a Walther P22 handgun with a laser sight. She said she last saw her gun during the weekend of Feb. 22, 2013, and later it was apparently stolen from her home, which she said she left unlocked. She testified she saw snowmobile tracks near her home after that date and Willis told her he had been out riding near her home.
She also testified that Willis had asked her several times for her underwear, but she always said no. She did not go to Human Resources to report the request.
Prosecutor DJ Hilson presented two pairs of underwear to Schnotala in court that had been found in Willis’ shed. She testified they were hers. She testified that she never gave Willis permission to come into her home or to take her gun, which she didn’t notice was missing until about three years later.
Willis' defense accused Schnotala of selling the gun and underwear to Willis. She denied it.
Willis not at work during Heeringa's disappearance, Bletsch's murder
In other testimony, Gwen Moeggenborg, of Herman Miller Human Resources, testified that Willis worked the day of Bletsch's murder, which was June 29, 2014, clocking in at work at 9:45 p.m. Bletsch last used her phone at 6:02 p.m. on that day.
Moeggenborg also testified that Willis took a vacation day from Herman Miller on April 26, 2013, which was the day Jessica Heeringa went missing. Willis worked third shift at Herman Miller, and worked with the company from 1999 to 2016.
Graphic "capture, rape, kill" videos on Willis' hard drives
Before lunch, Gerald McCarthy with the Michigan State Police computer crime unit testified regarding a two-gigabyte flash drive and two external hard drives that were found at Willis' home.
An external hard drive had a folder labeled "VICS," created on July 1, 2014. Within that folder were several sub-folders, one labeled "RSB" another labeled "JLH." Experts had to decipher an alpha code revealing the initials and birth dates of Bletsch and Heeringa. In the "RSB" folder were pictures of Rebekah Bletsch, among other files.
Other files on the drive included "tens of thousands" of videos of brutal kidnappings of women, followed by their gruesome rape, torture and murders. Experts previously said at least some of these videos are real footage of actual murders. One video was an 11-minute video called "the jogger" and was posted on the hard drive in March of 2014. That video depicted a woman jogging along a rural road when a man brutally abducted, raped and murdered her.
After the lunch break, McCarthy continued testifying he found voyeuristic videos that Willis had apparently taken himself of women in his neighborhood. Some videos were recorded through windows' blinds at night and others were of women walking through parking lots or young girls waiting for the bus mostly at night. Some videos were also apparently recorded from a vehicle. McCarthy also testified that Willis' computer had search histories of Walther guns and accessories on several websites including Amazon, Ebay and YouTube.
Willis' ex-wife takes the stand
Also taking the stand Wednesday afternoon, Charlene Bishop, Willis' ex-wife. Court records show their divorce finalized in August of 2016. She was married to Willis for 13 years and says she's known him for 18 years. They have no children together.
Bishop testified that she regularly takes insulin but as of 2005 uses a diabetic insulin pump, so she only needs needles or syringes for an emergency. Needles and insulin vials were found in a locked box in Willis' van, according to testimony on Tuesday. She said that there was no reason for Willis to have those materials in his van, especially because her insulin needs to be refrigerated.
She also testified that she was unaware of Willis' activities on the "dark web." She said that in the last five or six years they had gone separate ways and there was a lot of verbal abuse, to which the defense objected and Judge Marietti sustained. She said that he worked third shift and slept during the day so they weren't together often.
Bishop also testified Willis would have monthly poker games at their home, which included his cousin Kevin Bluhm. Bluhm is currently in custody, charged with accessory after the fact in the murder of Jessica Heeringa. After Jessica Heeringa disappeared in 2013 however, Bishop said the poker games stopped.
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Testimony resumes Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m.