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Opening statements begin in Jeffrey Willis trial

WZZM-TV • Oct 20, 2017 at 8:00 AM

MUSKEGON — Testimony got underway Thursday in the murder trial of Jeffrey Willis, who is accused of killing Rebekah Bletsch in June 2014 in Muskegon County’s Dalton Township.

Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson started the trial with his opening statement, telling jurors they would learn Willis had hundreds of videos on his home computer described as rape, torture and kill videos.

Hilson also said gloves found in Willis' van had the suspect’s DNA on the inside and Bletsch's DNA on the outside, adding, "We are alleging that during the course of this particular murder that Mr. Willis was attempting to kidnap and abduct Rebekah Bletsch, prior to shooting her dead."

Willis' attorney, Fred Johnson, told jurors that Willis' cousin, Kevin Bluhm, killed Bletsch.

"We believe that the police will indicate that he was a person of interest to them, that he had details about Mrs. Bletsch's murder that weren't released to the public — in other words, he had inside information," Johnson said Thursday in court. "We believe that Mr. Bluhm had both the motive and the opportunity to do this shooting, and he is in fact the person that did."

Following the opening statements, the first witness, a co-worker of Bletsch's, took the stand. She told jurors that nothing was noticeably different about Bletsch the day she was killed.

It took nearly three days to select a jury for the trial, which is expected to last three weeks. The magnitude of the case led to an extensive jury selection process. The court spent two days narrowing down the potential juror pool from 130 to 50.

The jury is made up of eight men and six women.

Willis was arrested in 2016 after a teenager said he tried to kidnap her. That arrest led to charges in Bletsch's death as well as the death of gas station clerk Jessica Heeringa, whose body hasn't been found.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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