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Willis' trial for the murder of Jessica Heeringa may be delayed

By Jon Mills/WZZM-TV • Jan 17, 2018 at 7:50 PM

MUSKEGON — The man who's serving a life prison sentence for the death of Rebekah Bletsch is scheduled to go to trial in March for the death of store clerk Jessica Heeringa; however, a new motion filed in the case could delay the trial for weeks, if not months.

Jeffrey Willis has begun serving a life prison sentence. He's currently being held at the state prison in Jackson.

This week, Willis' attorney, Fred Johnson, filed a "motion to adjourn" with Muskegon County Circuit Court. The motion may delay the trial scheduled to begin March 6. 

Muskegon County Judge Marietti is being asked to give the defense team more time to prepare to defend Willis against charges of kidnapping and open murder for the death of Heeringa. Johnson said he and other attorneys at the public defenders office have too much to review before the trial. Johnson is also waiting for transcripts from Willis' first trial.

"We will be asking the judge for a little more time to make sure that we are ready to go," Johnson said.

Because Willis is now in prison, Johnson said it's more difficult to communicate with his client.

"We did see him on Friday, but it's just inadequate," the attorney said. "We're not allowed to take files in, we're not allowed to take computers in, or to make phone calls."

The defense has asked the Michigan Department of Corrections to place Willis at a facility in Muskegon. Johnson believes the DOC may make that decision this month.

Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said he opposes the motion, will ask the judge to deny it, and he'll continue preparing for the trial to start in March.

Marietti is expected to hear the motion Jan. 26.

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