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Willis trial: Teen recounts moment she jumped from silver van

Jon Mills/WZZM-TV • Oct 25, 2017 at 8:00 AM

MUSKEGON — The teen who said last year she jumped from the van of Jeffrey Willis told jurors about the terrifying event on Tuesday morning inside a Muskegon County Circuit courtroom.

The teen said she was 16 at the time. She was identified in court by her initials MJN.

MJN told jurors she was lost and attempting to walk home from an overnight party at a location north of Muskegon and near Green Creek Road. After wandering for five hours, MJN said a silver minivan approached her from behind. It was the morning of April 16, 2016. She said the sun was just coming up at the time.

She testified the man driving the van offered his cellphone to her so she could call her mother.

MJN said after getting into the van, the driver said his phone was dead, the van's doors locked and the man began driving away. After asking him to stop, MJN said the driver pointed a gun at her.

It's then she told jurors that she unlocked the door of the minivan and jumped out. The van stopped and the driver got out, too.

"I was running down the road and screaming for him please not to kill me," MJN testified. "And then after I was far from him he told me it was just a joke."

MJN ran to the home of Dawn Schmitt, who told jurors she lives on Green Creek Road. Schmitt testified she heard a man and a woman yelling.

"Screaming 'help, he has a gun,'" Schmitt said. "She was hysterical, terrified."

Schmitt said she called 911 from inside her home.

Jurors on Tuesday also heard from the investigator who narrowed down a list of 34,000 silver vans to 30 registered in the Muskegon area. Unique features including the van's wheels and antenna helped lead investigators to Jeffrey Willis and eventually to an arrest.

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