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Jeffrey Willis' cousin pleads no contest in Jessica Heeringa case

WZZM-TV • Nov 27, 2017 at 7:54 PM

MUSKEGON — Kevin Bluhm made an unscheduled appearance in court Monday morning and pleaded no contest ahead of his trial scheduled to begin the next day.

Bluhm, the cousin of convicted murderer Jeffrey Willis, is charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact in connection to the Jessica Heeringa investigation. Investigators say that Bluhm previously lied to them during their investigation into Heeringa's disappearance.

The plea hearing was the result of discussion between the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office and Bluhm's attorney. County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said during the discussions he made one thing clear — he wouldn't back away from the felony charge.

"Our position has been that we are not going to offer any sort of lesser or reduced charge," Hilson said. "We wanted a plea as charged, and that is exactly what happened today."

In accepting the plea, a Muskegon County judge was convinced Bluhm helped Willis remove a body from the basement of a vacant home on Bailey Street in Muskegon on the day after Heeringa went missing from her job at the Exxon gas station in Norton Shores. Bluhm told police the body was the "gas station girl."

"He was being honest about that,” Hilson said. "He was telling the truth about that."

Heeringa's body has never been located.

"I do believe that he has some knowledge of where her remains might be," Hilson said.

A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated the same at sentencing. The felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.

"He is probably going to receive a time-served sentence," Hilson said.

 

The judge set Bluhm's sentencing for Jan. 9.

 

Members of the Heeringa family were informed of the possible plea last week.

Willis is expected to go to trial for the abduction and murder of Heeringa in the spring. The judge told Bluhm that if Willis is acquitted, he would allow Bluhm to withdraw the no-contest plea.

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