Jessica Heeringa vanished from a Norton Shores, Michigan, gas station she was working at on April 26, 2013.
Here’s what you need to know
1. She Went Missing in 2013
According to police, Heeringa, then 25, was abducted from a gas station that she worked at on the night of April 26, 2013. Authorities have desperately followed thousands of leads, and a suspect in the case, Jeffrey Willis, was announced September 20.
Surveillance cameras at area businesses near the gas station showed images of a silver minivan that was of interest in the case. Willis owned the same kind of minivan, police said.
Willis was also known to frequent the gas station, according to authorities.
Heeringa’s disappearance was featured in news across the world, and her story was shown on networks such as Investigation Discovery:
2. She Was Killed Within 48 Hours of Disappearing, Police Said
Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said he is confident Heeringa is dead and believes she was killed within 48 hours of her disappearance, mlive.com reported.
“In my opinion we have found Jessica’s killer,” Hilson said, speaking of Willis, at a press conference in Muskegon County Tuesday. “This individual, Mr. Willis, is a monster,” he said. “What his total motivation was that’s only for him to say. Ultimately, I think, this was part of who he was as a person.”
Willis’ cousin, Kevin Bluhm, is being charged as an accessory after Heeringa’s death, police said. Bluhm reportedly told police that he helped to “take care of” Heering and saw her dead body. He later said he made the story up was charged with two counts of lying to police during a violent crime investigation.
Hilson said at the press conference that he wasn’t about to let Bluhm go without being charged in connection with the case.
3. The Man Charged in Her Death Is Facing the Same Charges in Separate Cases
Hilson said a break in the case came when Willis was charged with the murder of Rebekah Bletsch in April 2016. That charge came after Willis tried to kidnap a 16-year-old who was able to escape, Hilson said at the press conference.
The teen girl said she was picked up by a man who was driving a silver minivan. She was lost and told the man, who was driving a silver minivan, that she wanted to use his cell phone. At that point, Hillis allegedly locked the doors and wouldn’t let her out.
Thanks to surveillance video, police identified Willis as the driver and owner of the van. He was arrested May 17 after the girl was able to pick him out of a photo lineup.
When authorities searched his van they found rope, handcuffs, syringes thought to be filled with sedatives, a gun, images of bound women and documentation about serial killers.
Willis’ handgun was found in the van and the bullets were matched to those found in Bletsch’s body and at the scene of her murder from June 2014. Authorities belive she had been taking a job before being shot to death.
4. Her Mother Helped to Run a Facebook Page to Find Her
Jessica’s mother, Shelly Heeringa, helped to administrate a Facebook page to help find her daughter, “Find Jessica Heeringa.”
The page is filled with updates and also tips for women on keeping safe.
On July 30 the page posted a link to a women’s self-defense program and said:
Never do you expect something to happen to you, your daughter or friend….. Please consider joining this class! Bring your daughter, Sister or friend!
Please Share. This can save someone’s life!
ONE MISSION ❤️ FIND JESSICA HEERINGA
Hilson said Heeringa’s family was told about the arrests and he spoke with them September 20. He said they will not speak to the media because they’re too consumed by anguish and agony.
5. Police Are Following Leads to Find Her Body
“The investigation will not be complete until we have a conviction and until we bring Jessica home to her family,” Norton Shores Police Chief Jon Gale said at the press conference. “Once again, today is just one step toward justice.”
Willis was denied bail and Bluhm’s is set at $250,000 cash.