MUSKEGON, MI — Moments after he was convicted of murdering a 36-year-old jogger, Jeffrey Willis defiantly left the courtroom — and blew a kiss to his victim’s family on his way out.
Willis fatally shot Rebekah Bletsch, whom he encountered on the side of a Michigan road in 2014. He had attempted to pull her into his van, but she fought back and was gunned down. But investigators didn’t arrest Willis until June 2016, after he was identified in another attempted kidnapping in nearby Fruitland Township.
Before Bletsch’s tearful family members began delivering the victim-impact statements that it is their right to expess, Muskegon County Circuit Judge William Marietti granted Willis’s request to skip hearing them and the sentencing that followed, according to CBS News.
As Willis left the courtroom, he blew the family a kiss. This was met with jeers and screams of “coward” from the crowd.
“I think that was very cowardly to walk out like that, and then to turn around to my family and blow a kiss?” Jessica Josephson, Bletsch’s younger sister, said. “I think that’s his kiss of death. He’s going to get what he deserves in prison.”
She told WXMI that she hoped Willis would “rot in hell.”
Michigan law gives crime victims the right to make a statement to the court during sentencing, but the judge said it was also the defendant’s right not to be present. “This coward should have been here to listen to us,” Bletsch’s mother, Debra Reamer, said. “For him to walk out on us was just horrible.”
Willis may have hoped he got the last laugh in the situation as he spitefully walked out before acknowledging their statements, but his insolent behavior backfired on him. If he had sat in the courtroom and paid attention to the victim-impact statements as they were delivered, he would have only had to have heard them once. But, since he decided to skip out with such a flippant attitude, authorities turned the tables on him a way he didn’t anticipate. Muskegon County Sheriff Michael Poulinas confirmed that as Willis was being transported to prison in a law-enforcement vehicle later that day, deputies made him listen to a CD recording of the victim-impact statements — five times.
Willis was sentenced to life in prison. He also faces charges related to a 16-year-old girl who says she escaped his kidnapping attempt, according to Michigan Live.
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Main photo: Jeffrey Willis [Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department]