MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The man convicted of abducting and killing Jessica Heeringa more than five years ago will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Judge William Marietti sentenced Jeffrey Willis Monday to life in prison without parole for the murder of Heeringa, who was abducted from the Norton Shores gas station where she worked on April 26, 2013.
Before learning his punishment, Willis cried as he read an eight-page statement in which he insisted he was innocent and claimed police covered up for each other.
“I came here today with intention to finally speak up and set the record straight,” Willis said.
Willis apologized twice to Rebakah Bletsch's family, saying the kiss he blew as he walked out of his sentencing for her murder before hearing from them was "mistakenly construed as a hateful act directed at them."
“My blown kiss that was spitefully garbled by the press as a rebuke to the family was in fact meant as a message to the prosecutor. D.J. Hilson. That message being that I’d figured out the truth and that he could kiss his future goodbye,” Willis said with a shaky voice.
Willis wasn't able to walk out this time because his actions spurred a change in state law that requires convicts to remain in the courtroom to hear victim impact statements.
However, none of Heeringa's family spoke at Willis' sentencing. Her mother, holding out hope that she's alive, didn't attend any of the trial. Her relatives say they won't give up on their mission to bring her home.