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Willis trial: Ex-wife takes the stand

Jaleesa Irizarry/WZZM-TV • Oct 25, 2017 at 8:01 PM

MUSKEGON — Did Jeffrey Willis' wife know of the crimes and what was on hard drives found in their home?

These are two questions that were answered Wednesday during the sixth day of Willis’ trial for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch.

Bletsch was found shot to death alongside Automobile Road in Muskegon County’s Dalton Township in June 2014. Police believe she was jogging when her attacker struck.

On Wednesday, the jury heard from expert witnesses as well as Charlene Bishop, Willis’ wife at the time of the crime. Bishop knew Willis for 18 years, but she told the prosecutor that there wasn't much communication during the last 5-6 years of their marriage, despite the fact that they lived in the same house.

"I went my way, he went his way," she said.

Prosecutors asked about a note Bishop received from her ex-husband after he was arrested. Bishop said the note referenced what he had been doing the day Bletsch was killed. It gave vivid details as to what he was wearing, even including that he wore a dirty shirt to work. But, Bishop said that would have never happened — in her memory, she said, he never went to work in a dirty shirt.

Bishop said she went to church regularly, and taught a teen class as well as a sewing class. Bishop is on disability and was not working at the time of the incidents. She said Willis only went to church on special occasions.

Michigan State Police computer crime specialist Gerald McCarthy also took the stand on Wednesday. The expert spoke about the files found on the two hard drives that were found in Willis' home.

A folder titled: “VICS” had a sub-folder titled “RSB (FZ+C14).” McCarthy decoded that folder title and came to the conclusion that it stood for Rebekah Sue Bletsch and 6-29-14, the day she was murdered. Inside the folder were photos of Bletsch pulled from social media as well as webpages saved.

The defense argued this folder was made after her death.

Other items on the external hard drive included thousands of videos pulled from websites. The analyst said there was a consistent theme in the videos on the hard drive. They involved the kidnapping and abduction of women. After these women were kidnapped, they were restrained with ropes, chains and handcuffs.

"They were violently raped and tortured in these videos, and the end result is that they were murdered," McCarthy said.

The analyst said the women were killed in several different ways — gunshot wounds, stabbed, drowned in a bathtub, suffocated, etc.

Prosecutors touched on one specific video, titled “The Jogger.” McCarthy described it to the courtroom.

"The video depicts a female on a secluded road, jogging,” he testified. “She stops and takes out her cellphone and there's audio to video, as well, and she calls someone on her cellphone and explains to that person that she believes she's being followed.

"She talks to this person for a half-minute to a minute, then hangs up with this person and continues jogging down the road,” McCarthy continued. “A short distance later, she's attacked by an adult male that jumps out of a wooded area between trees and bushes. The adult male grabs her, she resists and starts fighting to try and get away, but he is able to incapacitate her and render her unconscious, then drags her by her arms to a waiting minivan. That van is parked down the road. She is dragged to the van. The male opens the door and puts the female in, lays her down, and removes her clothing and rapes her."

McCarthy said videos like this can be found on various websites. In fact, oftentimes the website’s name is embedded in the video.

McCarthy said there were also home videos found on the hard drive. The home videos showed neighbors undressing as well as women walking to their cars in parking lots.

The defense asked McCarthy if any of the homemade videos on Willis' hard drive were of women being killed or raped, and he said no.

Prosecutors wrapped up their list of witnesses for the day at about 3:15 p.m. Court is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

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