Judge: Van owned by convicted killer of 2 will be destroyed

March 30, 2022 GMT

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A minivan owned by a man serving life sentences for the slayings of two women in western Michigan will be destroyed, a judge has ruled.

A Muskegon County judge ruled March 25 in favor of prosecutors’ motion to allow authorities to destroy the vehicle rather than continue to store it, the Muskegon Chronicle reported.

The Dodge Grand Caravan played a role in Jeffrey Willis’ crimes in the Muskegon area. At trial, county prosecutor D.J. Hilson said Willis had kept a “rape kit” in a box inside his minivan.

Willis, 52, is serving life without parole after being convicted of killing Rebekah Bletsch as she jogged along a rural road in 2014. He was also convicted of kidnapping and killing a gas station clerk who disappeared in 2013. Jessica Heeringa’s body still hasn’t been found.

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Judge William Marietti wrote in his ruling that “substantial evidence” was presented at both trials that the van “was employed by the defendant to facilitate the criminal behavior for which he was convicted” as well as in the kidnapping of a teenager.

That teen said in 2016 that she had escaped from the vehicle, jump-starting investigations into the then-unsolved homicides of Bletsch and Heeringa.

Hilson said the victims’ families will be invited to watch the vehicle’s destruction, if they so desire.

“This van was an instrument in the crimes he was convicted of,” he told the Muskegon Chronicle on Tuesday. “Hopefully, this will add some peace and comfort to the victims and their families.”

Willis had sought in a handwritten legal brief more than $250,000 worth of fees from authorities for their “use” of the minivan since his 2016 arrest.