Michigan kidnapping suspect charged in unrelated killing | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Michigan kidnapping suspect charged in unrelated killing

Rebekah Bletsch's family, from left, father Nick Winberg, sisters Jessica Josephson and Nicole Winberg, and mother Debra Reamer prepare to talk with the media about the open murder charges filed against Jeffrey Willis on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, in Muskegon, Mich. Willis, a western Michigan man accused of abducting a teenage girl last month has been charged with murder in the shooting death of Bletsch in 2014, prosecutors announced Wednesday. (Joel Bissell/Muskegon Chronicle via AP) ALL LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION INTERNET OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
May 25, 2016 - 2:40 PM

MUSKEGON, Mich. - A western Michigan man was charged Wednesday with killing a female jogger in 2014, after authorities investigating him in the recent abduction of a 16-year-old girl say they matched a gun in his van to the fatal shooting.

Jeffrey Willis, 46, was charged with murder and other crimes in the death of Rebekah Bletsch, who was shot in the head in Muskegon County's Dalton Township about two years ago. He's also being investigated in the 2013 disappearance of a gas station clerk.

"Today is still a sad day for many people, but is a happy day for law enforcement," prosecutor D.J. Hilson said at a news conference.

Ballistics matched a handgun seized from Willis' minivan with bullets found in Bletsch's body and shell casings found at the scene of her death, according to investigators. Police don't believe they knew each other, Hilson said.

Willis, of Muskegon Township, appeared in court to hear the charges before he was returned to jail without bond. The court will appoint a lawyer for him.

He had been under investigation in Bletsch's death since being charged last week with kidnapping and other crimes in an incident involving the teenage girl in Fruitland Township. She told investigators she jumped out of Willis' van in April.

"She probably doesn't realize how much of a hero she is," Hilson said.

Bletsch's mother, Debra Reamer, also expressed her gratitude at the news conference.

"Thank God this girl had the guts to jump. If it wasn't for her, we'd still be looking and wondering," she said.

Investigators searching the van found a pistol, ammunition, syringes with liquid, a ball gag, chains, a mask and a bar with wrist restraints. They found child pornography and videos of bound women in Willis' home.

Authorities have said Willis is being investigated in the 2013 disappearance of Jessica Heeringa, who was 25 when she went missing from the gas station where she worked. Hilson declined to take questions about that case on Wednesday.

As for other unsolved cases, Hilson said investigators are "keeping lines open."

A passer-by discovered Bletsch's body on June 29, 2014, along a road less than a mile from her home. Authorities believe she had been jogging on her regular route when she was killed. Although she had valuables on her, nothing was taken.

"It's been a rough couple of years, but we've had our faith and trust in law enforcement and they haven't' let us down," her father, Nick Winberg of Muskegon, told reporters.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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