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Jeffrey Willis takes the stand in his defense

By Jaleesa Irizarry/WZZM-TV • Nov 1, 2017 at 7:43 PM

MUSKEGON — Two weeks before the trial began, Jeffrey Willis told WZZM-TV that he wanted to take the stand. On Wednesday afternoon, that wish was granted.

The Muskegon County man is on trial for the murder of jogger Rebekah Bletsch, who was shot and killed on a rural road near her home in June 2014.

The defense started the morning with testimony from Muskegon County detective Lisa Freres. The defense argued the timeline of Willis' cousin Kevin Bluhm's alibi could still place Bluhm at the scene of the crime at the time of Bletsch's murder. Freres testified that Bluhm was at his child's soccer game in Grand Haven and witness statements claim he was with his family for the entire evening.

Before recessing the trial for lunch, Judge William Marietti said the next witness would take a while. Marietti was not exaggerating. Willis took the stand for roughly two hours.

Willis testified that he never stole the handgun from his co-worker, Michelle Schnotala, but that she sold it to him with the serial number scratched off. He also said she gave him her underwear that police found in his possession.

Willis also said that Bluhm asked to borrow the gun before Bletsch's murder and did not return it until after.

In regards to the videos of porn found on Willis' computer, he admitted to downloading them. He said his sex life went downhill after his wife had an abortion. He said they tried new things, such as toys and videos.

"That was my outlet,” Willis said. “I don't know anyway else to put it. Kind of embarrassing.”

The defense moved on to discuss the folder labeled “VICS” found on Willis' computer hard drive. Willis said he created the “JLH” folder to put his phone records to prove where he was that day in case police questioned him. The prosecution believes the “JLH” folder refers to Jessica Heeringa.

When Bletsch was killed, Willis said at the time it was a hit-and-run with a silver van. He said he thought to himself that police would go back to him. So, he created an “RSB” folder on his computer.

The prosecutor also brought up the “VICS” folder and asked Willis: "So, in 2014, you were squirreling through a phone record for a murder you didn't commit?' Willis said yes.

Police arrested Willis after a teenage girl, who is known as MJN when she testified earlier in the trial, said she escaped from a man in a van she identified as Willis.

Willis' account of what happened with MJN was completely different from what she testified. Willis said he didn't force her into the car, threaten her or ever touch her. The teen testified Willis pulled a gun on her.

Willis argued the girl got in on her own and appeared to be jittery. He said he thought she was on drugs, and when he asked her if she wanted him to take her home, she said yes. Moments later, the teen jumped out of the car and ran down the road yelling, “Don't shoot me.”

The defense then moved to read aloud a piece of the interview Bluhm had with police. In the interview, Bluhm admits to touching the gun that police believe was used to kill Bletsch. Bluhm also admitted to resetting his cellphone because he had porn on it as well as photos of Bletsch from her Facebook page. Bluhm said he knew Bletsch through their children's soccer team.

Bluhm told police, "When I first met her, I thought she was a beautiful lady. But I wouldn't hurt her. I'm the most honest guy in the world. I wouldn't kill her."

The defense rested their case shortly after 4 p.m. The trial is expected to resume Thursday morning.

The prosecutor told the judge that he had a couple of rebuttal witnesses to take the stand on Thursday. Following those witnesses, the jury will hear closing arguments.

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