Testimony continues in day 4 of Willis’ Heeringa murder trial

Jessica Heeringa and Jeffrey Willis

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Friday marks the fourth day of testimony in the murder trial of Jeffrey Willis after the most emotional day of testimony so far in the murder trial of Jeffrey Willis.

Willis is on trial for the kidnapping and murder of Heeringa, who was last seen working late at night at a Norton Shores gas station in April 2013.  She has not been seen since.

Testimony is expected to begin at 1:30 p.m. Friday.  Prosecutor DJ Hilson says he may rest his case next Tuesday.

Day 3 of testimony started Thursday with witnesses who were the closest to the scene where Jessica Heeringa was last seen.

Susan Follett described how she and her now ex-husband, Eric Barber, were out for a motorcycle ride on the night of April 26, 2013, when Heeringa disappeared. She was also an employee at the Exxon Mobile station where Heeringa worked. Barber testified Wednesday afternoon.

She testified she was not working that day, but they rode past the station. She says they saw a silver minivan in the parking lot driving towards the gas station. She said it turned off its headlights and she felt something wasn’t right and they turned around and went back to the gas station.

Follett wept on the stand as she described watching from a strip mall parking lot the van, with its lights off, pull around to the back of the gas station. The lights outside the station went off, even though they are supposed to always be on. She said she saw the light of the van’s hatch going on and off, “as if it was trying to be shut, but couldn’t.”

Follett described the man who got into the van as wearing a bright red or orange shirt.  She said she didn’t get anyone else into the minivan, but the man started driving away right away, as it had been left running.  She said she was able to see the man driving for just a couple of seconds and described his hair as “pretty, with blonde streaks.”

They followed the van for a short distance, but saw no movement in the back.  The van went a different direction than where they were heading.  Shortly after they got home she got a phone call from her boss to go to the station because Heeringa was gone.

Under cross-examination from the defense, Follett said she had suspicions that Heeringa was stealing product from the store. She didn’t go inside because she wasn’t a manager, just a co-worker.  She said that money at the station was always accounted for.

The next witness was Willis’ hair stylist for 14 years and testified that she had given Willis blonde highlights, but couldn’t say for sure if she gave them to him in 2013.

Norton Shore Police Cpl. Joel Hoeksema testified then about arriving at the gas station to investigate the situation. He testified everything looked normal. “The lights were on. There just wasn’t an employee there.”

Hoeksema found a battery cover outside the back door of the gas station which investigators say is from the laser sight of the handgun used by Willis. He also found a blood stain on the concrete.

Willis is already spending life in prison for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch in 2014.  He was arrested in 2016 after abducting a teen.

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