Jeffrey Willis, a Michigan man accused of trying to abduct a 16-year-old girl, is now a suspect in two other missing person cases, the Washington Post is reporting.
According to released court documents, a ball gag, mask, bar with restraints, and chains were found in a van owned by Willis. The items were seized by police authorities from the 46-year-old man’s vehicle at his Muskegon Township residence, according to a statement released by police Friday. A pistol, ammunition, as well as syringes that allegedly contained sedatives were also found in the van. When police searched his home, a big stash of child pornography and videos featuring women bound and gagged were recovered from his computer.
Willis has been charged with kidnapping and other related crimes in the botched abduction.
— Jon Mills (@JonMills20) May 19, 2016
Willis was apprehended by police as he returned from his night shift as a furniture maker. He was arrested 6:45 a.m. Tuesday.
The girl he had allegedly abducted, who cannot be identified, had made a daring escape, telling police later that she jumped from a minivan. She was taken as she returned from a party.
She had asked the driver in a minivan if she could call someone on his cell phone, and when she hopped into the car, the man had rolled up the windows, locked the doors and pulled out a handgun. Miraculously, she was able to jump out of the moving van and run for her life even with her assailant pointing a gun at her.
Good Samaritan Dawn Schmitt was sipping coffee early morning when she heard a young girl screaming for help. “He’s got a gun, he’s got a gun,” the girl yelled. Schmitt had opened her door quickly and ushered the frightened girl inside. The quick-thinking 53-year-old had then bolted the door and called 911. The hysterical girl had left her shoes behind as she jumped out of the van. She was bleeding from the arm and had bruises on her back.
Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson said “based on the efforts of this brave girl, and the efforts of law enforcement, we were able to put together a case and put a very very dangerous man behind bars.”
Investigators had scoured for clues that eventually led them to Willis. The girl had vividly described her attacker’s face, picking him up immediately from a photo lineup. “They were still setting [photos] down, when the victim went, ‘that’s him’ immediately,” the Muskegon undersheriff said.
Police are now also saying evidence from their investigation has made him a leading suspect in two cold cases, including the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa, 25, in 2013, and the death of Rebekah Bletsch, 36, in 2014.
Jessica Heeringa was a gas station clerk who disappeared late one night.
— WOODRADIO (@WOODRADIO) August 13, 2014
Rebekah Bletsch was shot dead during an early morning run. Blurry surveillance footage showed a silver minivan in the area at the time of Heeringa’s disappearance. Willis owns a silver Dodge Grand Caravan, 2006 model. Police are presently running tests on the.22 caliber semiautomatic pistol found in Willis’ vehicle to see if it matches the gun used to kill Bletsch.
Willis is being held presently on a $1 million bond.
Willis blended well with his western Michigan surroundings. Neighbors recall him playing Frisbee with his dog in the mornings and that he had a glaring sign that read “WELCOME TO OUR PORCH” hanging from a yellow front door.
Willis had a dozen traffic violation cases that went back decades, several of them were dismissed. He had also been fired from his previous job as a custodian in 1999 at a community school for accessing pornography on an office computer and exposing it to a student. In 2007, he was questioned for allegedly filming people without permission in a Sam’s Club parking lot, though he was never arrested.
[Image via Muskegon County Jail]