On April 26, 2013, Jessica Heeringa was last seen working at an Exxon Mobile gas station in the 1100 block of east Sternberg Road in Norton Shores, Michigan. She was working the late shift alone and went missing between 10:51 and 11:07 p.m., just before closing time. Her last cash register transaction was at 10:51, and a customer discovered the station unattended at 11:07. Authorities suspect she was kidnapped.
Heeringa left her coat, purse, keys, identification, and $420 in cash inside the store, and her car was parked outside. There were no signs of a struggle or missing money from the cash register, but a small spot of her blood was discovered on the ground near the station’s back door.
Flirting With Heeringa
An unknown man was seen flirting with Heeringa at the gas station hours before her disappearance, according to a witness. This case summary includes a sketch of the man. He is described as Caucasian in his thirties, approximately 6’0 tall, with a medium to heavy build and wavy, sandy brown or blond hair. He was driving a silver minivan, possibly a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country, and was wearing a bright red or orange sweatshirt.
The gas station has no surveillance cameras, but a camera from a nearby business shows a silver minivan driving by at 11:04 p.m., around the time Heeringa went missing.
Jeffrey Thomas Willis was arrested and charged with kidnapping a sixteen-year-old girl, Madison Nygard, who escaped after he lured her into his van in May 2016, more than three years after Heeringa’s disappearance. He was charged with the murder of Rebekah Sue Bletsch, a 36-year-old woman who was shot to death while jogging in Dalton Township, Michigan, in June 2014.
This case summary includes a photograph of Willis. Police discovered a.22-caliber semi-automatic pistol with the serial number filed off, ammunition for the pistol, a sheathed knife, two video recorders, five syringes, and bondage material when they searched his van.
Willis’ home also contained bondage pornography, images of child sexual abuse, a five-page list of American serial killers, and a three-page list of women’s names and phone numbers. Authorities believe he downloaded child sexual abuse material from the internet and used a hidden camera to record images of minor girls using his home’s bathroom; he has also been charged in connection with this.
Willis’ cousin Kevin Lavern Bluhm was accused of lying to police during their investigation into Willis’s alleged crimes, including the disappearance of Heeringa. He claimed he hadn’t seen Willis in nearly a year and hadn’t ever seen him with a handgun when he was questioned in the middle of May 2016. He was later found guilty of being an accessory after the fact and given a 476-day time served sentence.
However, he later acknowledged in an interview that he had met Willis in early May and that Willis had then shown him a handgun. According to him, Willis made him “take care of Miss Heeringa.” Heeringa had head wounds and other wounds that were consistent with sexual assault, according to what he saw of her naked body. He asserted that he had made up everything at the conclusion of the second interview.
Willis’ 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan in silver is similar to the one sought in Heeringa’s disappearance, and according to his coworkers, he frequently frequented her gas station because it was on his way to work. His coworkers claimed that after Heeringa vanished, he had discussed her case with them.
Willis was found guilty of Bletsch’s murder in November 2017. In relation to the kidnapping of Madison Nygard, he is still awaiting trial. He was accused of murder and kidnapping Herringa in September 2016. Despite the fact that the evidence used in his May 2018 trial was almost entirely circumstantial, the jury found him guilty after just one and a half hours of deliberation.
Heeringa’s body has never been located, but police still hope to find it. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.
Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Heeringa has a lazy eye. She has the following tattoos: a sun and moon on her right calf, sleeping Z’s on her left foot, a star on her back and a musical note and a peace sign on her left ankle. She may wear wire-rimmed eyeglasses.
- Norton Shores Police Department 231-733-2691