Judge Rules Serial Killer’s Van Will Be Destroyed Despite Jeffrey Willis’ Unusual Legal Argument

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MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI — A legal case filed by serial killer Jeffrey Willis did not win favor with a Muskegon County judge, so the twice-murderer’s van will be destroyed.

The judge ruled in favor of the county attorney’s motion to allow authorities to destroy the van rather than continue to store the vehicle used in the murders. The time, date and location where the silver Dodge Grand Caravan will be placed in the crusher have yet to be determined.

Willis, in a handwritten legal brief, requested that more than $250,000 in fees be paid to him for the “use” of the van by authorities since his arrest in 2016. He claimed the county sheriff’s office of Muskegon had used “imprehensible conduct” in its decision to store the van.

Willis, 52, is serving a life sentence in connection with the 2014 murder of jogger Rebekah Bletsch and the 2013 kidnapping and murder of Norton Shores gas station attendant Jessica Heeringa.

Judge William Marietti ruled in a notice filed in Muskegon County Circuit Court on March 25 that Willis’ property would not be returned to him.

“In each trial there was substantial evidence that the van in question was used by the defendant to facilitate the criminal behavior for which he was convicted, as well as the kidnapping charges which were dropped after the convictions for murder,” Marietti wrote in her op-ed. “It was… an instrument used in the commission of two murders and one kidnapping.”

During Willis’ trial, jurors learned of a “rape kit” in a padlocked toolbox found inside the van.

The prosecution argued that Willis wanted to abduct Bletsch and the teen who escaped so he could record their torture and murder as depicted in the videos he uploaded.

RELATED: Woman Who Escaped Jeffrey Willis Shares Her Story On A&E Show ‘I Survived A Serial Killer’

“(The van) is considered derivative contraband. It will not be returned to the defendant,” Marietti wrote.

Muskegon County District Attorney DJ Hilson filed a motion to destroy the van during a hearing in September 2021. At that time, the judge asked each side to file briefs.

The van is linked to the two murders as well as the 2016 kidnapping of Muskegon County teenager Madison Nygard, which Willis is also accused of committing.

RELATED: Timeline of Jeffrey Willis’ alleged murder crimes and how the police caught him

Willis, in the handwritten brief, said his van was not seized by police under a valid search warrant, citing various case law. For more than five years, the van has sat in secure storage, racking up over $100,000 in storage fees.

Willis challenged the accuracy and reasonableness of the charges associated with storing the van.

“A cheaper alternative would have been to allow Mr. Willis’ wife to pick up the vehicle rather than store it,” Willis’ memoir said. “…defendant requests that the court return the van to Mr. Willis’ possession…and that all costs and fees incurred be waived and paid by the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office due to his misconduct.”

Willis asked the court to assess a rental fee – to be paid by the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office – of $129 per day for the use of his vehicle for 1,960 days – totaling $252,840.

He demanded $3 as gas charges from the state for driving the van from where Willis was arrested to a garage in Muskegon Township. He also asked the state to cover any costs associated with long-term storage of the van, such as routine oil changes.

“We appreciate the court’s decision as it did. This van was an instrument in the crimes for which he was convicted,” Hilson told MLive/Muskegon Chronicle on Tuesday, March 29. “I hope this brings some peace and comfort to the victims and their families.

Hilson said his office’s next step is to let the families of the victims know when the van will be destroyed. They will be invited to watch, if they wish, he added.

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