Murder of Jessica Heeringa

Jessica-Heeringa

Name: Jessica Lynn Heeringa
Age: 25 years old
Last seen: April 26, 2013
Location: North Shores, Michigan
Status: Missing, presumed deceased

Jessica-Lynn-Heeringa

Physical Description

Jessica Heeringa is a caucasian female with blonde hair and blue eyes, she is 5’1 tall and weighs 105 lbs.

She has several tattoos: sun and moon on her right calf, sleeping Z’s on her left foot, a star on her back, a musical note, and a peace sign on her left ankle.

Jessica was last seen wearing wire-rim glasses and a blue collared shirt with “Sternberg Exxon” on it (as seen in the image above).

Background

Jessica Heeringa was born on July 16th, 1987 to her parents Shelly Heeringa and Pete Kenkins. Jessica was the youngest of three daughters.

At the time of her disappearance, Jessica was living in Muskegon, Michigan with her 3-year-old son. She worked as a clerk at the Exxon Mobile station in Norton Shores. Jessica-Heeringa-image

Disappearance

On April 26th, 2003, Jessica was working a late shift alone at the Exxon Mobile gas station, in the 1100 block of East Sternberg Road in Norton Shores, Michigan.

At around 11:07 pm, a customer comes into the gas station to find it empty and called 911. Shortly after the call was made, at 11:25 pm, the police arrive and find the store to be unlocked. They also find Jessica’s packet of cigarettes and lighter next to the cash register, along with all her personal belongings and money.

Jessica’s last cash register transaction took place at 10:51 pm. This information made officers believe Jessica disappeared between 10:51 pm and 11:07 pm.

Investigation

Police immediately classified Jessica’s disappearance as a kidnapping. Inside Exxon, they found her coat, keys, purse as well as her ID, and $420 cash, and her car still parked outside.

Upon searching the gas station, no money from the cash register was missing and there was no sign of a struggle. however, officers found a bloodstain on the ground outside the back door, which was later determined to belong to Jessica.

A witness came forward, who was a regular customer at the Exxon gas station said they saw a suspicious man flirting with Jessica at the station shortly before her disappearance. The male was described as a white male in his thirties, around 6’0 tall with a medium to heavy-set build. The individual has sandy brown or blond wavy hair and was wearing a bright red or orange sweatshirt.

The manager of the gas station and her husband told investigators on the night of April 26th, they saw a silver minivan parked behind the gas station. At around 10:50 pm they drove past the station and saw a white male driving the minivan around the back of the station.

A security camera showed footage from Sodini Blueberry Farm, which is located a mile away from the gas station, showed a silver minivan driving by at 11:04 pm. This was around the time, Jessica Heeringa disappeared.

Jeffery-Willis-van

Timeline of Jessica Heeringa (based on eyewitnesses and police testimony made in court hearings)

April 25th, 2013:  a female customer who was a regular at the station saw Jessica working a late shift alone and made a comment saying she shouldn’t be there alone at such late hours and that her boyfriend should at least accompany her. A man who was at the station overheard the conversation and interjected saying “she’s got her customers looking out for her too”. The female customer said that Jessica then sort of shook her head and started shivering as if a shiver went down her spine.

The female customer also said that Jessica was not her usual happy self and it appeared that something was wrong. So the female customer decided to park her car outside the station until it closed. She remembered seeing the strange man leaving the station that night.

April 26th, 2013:

  • 10:55 pm: The last transaction was made, a cigarette lighter.
  • 11:00 pm: The Exxon manager and her husband drove by the station and saw a man acting in a suspicious manner. They recall seeing him repeatedly opening and closing his silver minivan’s rear hatch. They then saw him drive away and reported his behavior to the police.
  • 11:02 pm-11:05 pm: A silver Crysler Town and County matching the couple’s description was seen on three other businesses’ cameras, speeding away from the station.
  • 11:10 pm: A man pulled up at the Exxon gas station and attempted to pay for gas. However, Jessica Heeringa was nowhere to be found so he called 911.
  • 11:25 pm: Police arrive at the gas station. Upon searching the station, they found Jessica’s belongings still inside as well as parts of a gun near the bloodstain found outside the back door. About an hour later a police K-9 searched the gas station and surrounding area but did not find anything.

Jessica-Heeringa-timeline

The arrest of Jeffery Willis

Jeffery Thomas Willis was a resident of Muskegon Township, Michigan. He had previous charges and was a suspect in the Jessica Heeringa case.

In April 2016, Jeffery Willis was arrested and charged with attempting to kidnap a 16-year-old girl in Madison Nygard. The victim was able to escape from his moving van in Muskegon County and reported the incident to the police.

In May 2016, Jeffery Willis was charged with the murder of 36-year-old Rebekah Sue Bletsch. Rebekah was shot while jogging in Dalton Township, Michigan in June 2014.

In Jeffery’s silver 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan, police found a toolbox containing handcuffs, a ball gag, chains, and ropes. A second lockbox found under the driver’s seat contained a 22. caliber semi-automatic pistol with the serial number field off, ammunition five syringes, and some pills.

Jeffery-van

In September 2016, Jeffery Thomas Willis was charged with the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Heeringa. Investigators were able to match the gun laser sight found outside the Exxon gas station to the ones found in Jeffery Willis’s silver minivan.

Investigators found through Jeffery’s credit card history, that he had visited the station at least 15 times prior to Jessica’s disappearance. Jeffery’s phone record also put him close to the station at the time of Jessica’s disappearance.

Investigators believe Jessica was lured out the back door of the gas station when Jeffery struck her on the head, which broke the gun. He then drove Jessica to an empty house on Bailey Street, Norton Shores, which belonged to his late grandfather.

Other finding Investigators found in a computer hard drive at his home, thousands of videos, depicting violence, bondage pornography, child pornography, and necrophilia. As well as videotapes of undressed underage girls captured without their knowledge.

Jeffery-Willis

On May 16th, 2018, Jeffery Willis was convicted of a life sentence in the premeditated kidnapping and murder of Jessica Heeringa.

Kevin Lavern Bluhm’s testimony

In May 2016, Kevin Lavern Bluhm, Jeffery Willis’s cousin, was questioned by detectives and told them he hadn’t seen Jeffery for almost a year.

Kevin-Bluhm

He then later confessed to police that Jeffery forced him to help dispose of Jessica Heeringa’s body at the late grandfather’s house in late April 2013. He recalled seeing a blonde female laying face down in the basement, unclothed with her hands tied. The body had head wounds and injuries consistent with sexual assault.

Kevin then said they drove to an area of Sheridan, north of Laketon Road, to bury Jessica’s wrapped body in a hole that had already been dug by Jeffery. Searches in the area were conducted however, there was no sign of Jessica’s body.

At the end of the second interview, Kevin recanted his statement and said he had made the whole story up. He was charged with obstruction for allegedly lying to police.

On January 9th, 2018. Kevin Lavern Bluhm was convicted of being an accessory after the fact in the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Heeringa. He was sentenced to 476 days and was ordered to a maximum of 5 years probation, and was ordered to wear a GPS, monitor for a year.

The Jessica Heeringa Act

On December 9th, 2013, the Jessica Heeringa Act was presented by the Michigan House of Representatives.

The Jessica Heeringa Act requires gas stations and convenience stores that are open between 11 pm to 5 am to install and maintain a security camera system, or to have at least two employees on shift during these hours.

Rebekah Bletsch Law

Rebekah Sue Bletsch was found with three gunshot wounds to the head near her home in Dalton Township on June 29th, 2014. Shell casings were found near her body matched a gun found in Jeffery Willis’s minivan. A sub-folder was found inside the “vics” folder on Jeffery’s computer that had pictures of Rebekah.

On November 2nd, 2017, Jeffery Willis was found guilty of first-degree murder and for the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Jeffery Willis was sentenced to life without parole.

Rebekah-Sue-Bletsch

On March 9th, 2018, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill that requires convicted defendants to listen to victims’ impact statements at sentencing, which was inspired by Jeffery’s refusal to do so after the Bletsch trial. This is known as The Rebekah Bletsch Law.

Contact Information

If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Jessica Lynn Heeringa please contact the Norton Shores Police at 231-733-2691  or contact the family tip line at 231-222-0278.

Jessica-Heeringa-missing-poster

A $26,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to Jessica’s location. Jessica Heeringa’s case remains open and ongoing as no body has been recovered.

Resources and Further Information

https://www.facebook.com/FindJessicaHeeringa/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Jessica_Heeringa

Investigation Discovery: Disappeared Season 7 Episode 1 “Somebody’s Watching”

https://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/2019/12/court-upholds-conviction-in-jessica-heeringa-kidnapping-and-murder.html

https://people.com/crime/jessica-heeringa-murder-jeffrey-willis-convicted/

https://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/2018/05/jeffrey_willis_found_guilty_of.html

Justice for Rebekah Sue Bletsch Facebook page 

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