Willis claims innocence at Heeringa murder sentence

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.

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