MUSKEGON, Mich. - The prosecution rested their case against Jeffrey Willis and the defense was expected to call an important witness Friday afternoon, but instead created an unexpected delay.
Willis is accused of murdering Rebekah Bletsch while she was jogging June 29, 2014. He is also accused of kidnapping and murdering Jessica Heeringa in April of 2013, then abducting a 16-year-old girl in April of 2016, which led to his arrest. The trial has lasted almost two weeks.
The prosecution's final witness was Michelle Schmitt, a Michigan State Police DNA and forensics expert. She testified that Bletsch's DNA was found on a black Rebok glove and a sex toy that were found inside Willis' minivan.
The defense was expected to start calling witnesses Friday afternoon, but instead asked Judge William Marietti for time to prepare portions of some 18 hours of transcripts from Kevin Bluhm. Bluhm is Willis' cousin who is in custody, charged with being an accessory after the fact in Jessica Heeringa's murder case.
Before the delay Friday afternoon, the defense brought Bluhm into the courtroom while the jury was absent. Bluhm pleaded his Fifth Amendment rights and will not testify in this trial.
Following this, Willis' attorney Fred Johnson asked Judge Marietti to introduce additional evidence, transcripts of Bluhm's prior testimony, statements and police interviews which still needs to be prepared. Judge Marietti expressed disappointment and said at this point he's heard "no evidence" that Bluhm was involved in the murder of Bletsch, which the defense suggested during opening statements.
Prosecutor D.J. Hilson called the delay an "injustice" for the jury and Bletsch's family and loved ones. He told the judge he was very disappointed this was not handled ahead of the trial within a prior motion.
Judge Marietti called the jury back into the courtroom to tell them there is a "legal issue" and they are dismissed until at least Tuesday morning, when he said he is "hopeful" the trial will resume.