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Willis' cousin to go to trial for alleged involvement in Heeringa case

By Andrew Krietz/WZZM-TV • Feb 27, 2017 at 7:50 PM

MUSKEGON — A Muskegon County judge says he has found enough evidence to send Kevin Bluhm to trial on a charge related to allegations he was involved in Jessica Heeringa's death.

Monday’s court proceeding determined whether Bluhm — the cousin of Jeffrey Willis, who is accused of kidnapping and murdering Heeringa — would be tried on a felony charge of accessory after the fact in connection to Heeringa's kidnapping and murder.

Bluhm has entered guilty pleas to two charges of lying to police last summer. He was accused of telling a detective that "Jeffrey Willis did do it," in reference to killing Heeringa, the clerk who disappeared from a Norton Shores gas station in 2013.

Bluhm also told police he helped take care of her body. Later, Bluhm told investigators he made the story up.

Bluhm served a 96-day jail sentence for lying to police. Prosecutors say they are not after a conviction that could mean a long prison sentence.

In June 2016, Norton Shores police Lt. Michael Kasher told the judge investigators believed they were on the verge of a big break in the Heeringa case. This came after a 12-hour interview with Bluhm. Kasher said Bluhm told investigators he helped Willis remove Herringa's body from the basement of a vacant home.

"Mr. Bluhm opened up the hatch to the van," Kasher said, “which there was some plastic laid down already in the van."

Bluhm allegedly went on to say he went with Willis to a pre-dug hole less than a mile from Willis' home.

"They both grabbed the body, took the body, walked over there and then put the body in the hole," Kasher said.

Police searched the area but didn't find Heeringa.

Investigators began to suspect Bluhm's story was fabricated, but they can't be completely sure.

"Willis kept telling him to keep his mouth shut, do not say anything," Kasher said. "If you do, I will move her."

Kasher also told the judge a hard drive had been removed from Bluhm's computer and his cellphone had been clear of information and reset to the factory settings.

Bluhm's attorney, Timothy Hayes, asked the judge to dismiss the charge, pointing out his client was already prosecuted for misleading police and because prosecutors didn't offer any physical evidence to show Bluhm helped Willis.

"They have no evidence, except his statements," Hayes said.

After a three-hour delay to review state and federal law, the judge ruled Monday that the charge can go to trial.

Willis is also charged in the killing of jogger Rebekah Bletsch in 2014 and trying to kidnap a 16-year-old girl last spring.

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