MUSKEGON (WWJ/AP) – A cousin of a man charged in the slaying of a 25-year-old western Michigan gas station clerk has avoided additional jail time for helping him afterward.
A judge sentenced 49-year-old Kevin Bluhm to time served Tuesday for being an accessory after the fact in the murder of Jessica Heeringa. He had been jailed since September 2016. Bluhm pleaded no contest to the charge.
Bluhm also was ordered to serve five years of probation and wear a GPS tether.
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.
His cousin, Jeffrey Willis, is charged in her death. He’s already serving a life sentence for fatal shooting a 36-year-old woman while she jogged in western Michigan.
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 a 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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