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Willis forced to hear family's testimony on his way to prison

WZZM-TV • Dec 22, 2017 at 8:00 AM

MUSKEGON — The Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Thursday that Jeffrey Willis was transported to the state prison in Jackson by a sheriff's office cruiser while listening to a CD of testimony by the family of Rebekah Bletsch, who he was convicted of murdering.

Willis was allowed to walk out of his sentencing hearing on Monday before family members spoke. On his way out, he was seen blowing a kiss, a move that received many gasps and comments from the gallery.

Bletsch's mother, Debra Reamer, first read on Facebook that Willis was forced to listen to the recording.

"I was afraid to believe it," she said.

Muskegon County Sheriff Michael Poulin confirmed Thursday that he's the person who made the audio recording and provided it to the two deputies who drove Willis from Muskegon to Jackson early Wednesday morning. The recording was everything Willis would have heard had he not been allowed to leave Monday's court hearing.

"I was glad he had to do that," Reamer said. "He walked out on us and that wasn't right."

Willis will be back in Muskegon County in March to stand trial for the kidnapping and death of store clerk Jessica Heeringa.

In the wake of Willis' sentencing, state Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague, unveiled legislation that would require "anyone facing a sentence of life in prison, such as murder or sexual assault, to hear the impact statements by victims or their families." In a statement from her office, Hughes said: "Anyone convicted of such a heinous crime should be required to hear directly from family members on how their lives will be forever impacted."

Hughes intends to introduce the bill next month.

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