This convicted killer thought he avoided hearing his victim’s family’s anger, but then the sheriff had a brilliant idea


Convicted killer Jeffrey Willis decided he didn’t want to stay in the courtroom and hear his murder victim’s family share their stories of grief and anger, but Muskegon County Sheriff Michael Poulin made sure Willis had to hear their words.

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Poulin said he received a compact disc created from recordings of the victim impact statements delivered by Rebekah Bletsch’s family in court Monday. So he gave the 25-minute CD to the two transport officers who were going to transport Willis to prison Wednesday.

On the drive, they played the disc five times in the cruiser.

Willis was granted a request to skip his sentencing Monday, so he didn’t hear the statements by relatives.

“I don’t find it that important that Jeffrey Willis heard what the family had to say, but that the family knew he heard what they said,” Poulin told MLive.

Willis was convicted in November of murdering Bletsch. Authorities believe Willis grew angry after Bletsh refused to get in his van. They theorized that Willis wanted to sexually torture her before killing her. He shot Bletsch while she jogged in western Michigan.

He’s also awaiting trial in the April 2013 disappearance of Jessica Heeringa from the gas station where she worked in Norton Shores. Her body hasn’t been found.

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Bletsch’s family and others who gathered in the courtroom Monday for Willis’s sentencing were “shocked and outraged,” MLive reported when Willis’ attorney announced that his client’s “desire” was to not remain in the courtroom for the family’s statements or the pronouncement of his sentence.

He received a life sentence in prison without parole.

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Bletsch’s sister, Jessica Josephson, said it meant a lot to her, the family and others grieving that the sheriff had thought about the family enough to make sure that Willis heard their voices.

“It brings a little bit of peace, a little bit of comfort,” Josephson said. “I did want the opportunity to say it to his face… but knowing he did get to hear it does help.”

Poulin said he was not informed of Willis’s reaction to hearing the emotional statements on the CD.

According to MLive, Josephson, her sister Nicole Winberg and mother Debra Reamer gave tearful statements that included remembrances of Bletsch’s “vivacious personality” as well as their anger toward Willis.

Josephson called him the “Monster of Muskegon.”

Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson read a letter in the courtroom from Bletsch’s husband.

When Willis was escorted out of the courtroom prior to the victim statements, members of the audience yelled out “coward” and “rot in hell.”

Willis responded by blowing a kiss to Bletsch’s family members.

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