MUSKEGON (WWJ/AP) – A cousin of a man charged in the slaying of a 25-year-old western Michigan gas station clerk is expected to avoid additional jail time for helping him afterward.
Kevin Bluhm pleaded no contest Monday to being an accessory after the fact of murder. He’s been jailed since September 2016 on the charge, which is longer than he would serve if convicted. A no contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing, set for Jan. 9.
Jessica Heeringa disappeared April 26, 2013, from Norton Shores. Her body has not been found, but investigators believe she was killed within 24 to 48 hours of her abduction. Authorities say Bluhm told police that the day after Heeringa went missing, he saw a woman bound in a Norton Shores home and helped to bury her. Bluhm later told police he had lied.
Jeffrey Willis is charged in Heeringa’s death, as well as abducting a 16-year-old girl in April 2016 and the 2014 slaying of 36-year-old jogger Rebekah Bletsch in Dalton Township.
Investigators have said they think Heeringa was taken against her will by someone she likely knew. There was no indication of a robbery, as Heeringa’s purse, vehicle and other items were left behind at the scene. DNA testing showed a small amount of blood found outside the gas station belonged to Heeringa.
Willis was named a person of interest in Heeringa’s disappearance in May 2016, after his arrest in the teen’s kidnapping. Investigators said his van resembled a vehicle seen by witnesses parked behind the gas station on the night Heeringa went missing. Telephone and credit card records also show Willis had been at the gas station.
Willis’ van was even searched in the days following Heeringa’s disappearance, but police said “there was nothing at that point in time to suggest at all that he was involved in any criminal activity.” When the van was searched again following Willis’ arrest, investigators found a pistol, ammunition, syringes with liquid, a ball gag, chains, a mask and a bar with wrist restraints inside the vehicle. Child pornography and videos of bound women were also found in his home.
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