While working her usual shift at an ExxonMobil gas station in Norton Shores, Michigan, Jessica Heeringa appeared to be acting strangely. Although she made it home safely that evening, the same could not be said for the following night.
Tragically, around 11 p.m., shortly after making a sale, she vanished. When police arrived to investigate her sudden disappearance, they found that local CCTV footage had captured a key clue. What followed was a story that few who knew her could believe…
On April 25, 2013, Jessica Heeringa was working the late shift at the ExxonMobil gas station in Norton Shores, Michigan. The graveyard shift wasn’t ideal, but as the breadwinner of the family—and the mother of a three-year-old son—she desperately needed the cash.
Even a regular customer who pulled up to the gas station that evening noticed that Jessica was acting strangely. Was she okay? Was she safe? He had no idea that the next very next night, the 25-year-old clerk wouldn’t make it home.
The next night—on April 26—Jessica was back at her shift. She sold a carton of cigarettes around 11 p.m., and then… she completely vanished. Ten minutes later, a customer arrived at the station; he walked into the convenience store to purchase some gas, only to find no one inside or behind the counter.
Assuming something was wrong, he called the police, who arrived soon after. When authorities arrived and investigated the scene, they discovered what would be the first of many key clues in her disappearance…
Almost right away, police discovered that Jessica’s purse, jacket, cigarettes, and car had all been left at the scene. This evidence led them to believe that something seriously sinister had happened that night…
As the police continued to search for clues, they ruled out the possibility of a robbery. With the cash register untouched and $400 in Jessica’s purse, they knew money wasn’t a motive. Clearly, the young woman had been abducted.
Then, authorities made a startling discovery in the parking lot: a puddle of blood. Near that were gun accessories. Yet, without a body, they had no idea what happened to Jessica. They’d have to perform a DNA tests on the blood to confirm if it was hers…
Soon, authorities began asking nearby businesses if their cameras had possibly captured any suspicious activity from other vantage points. As luck would have it, this led them to a major breakthrough.
A nearby business’s footage confirmed what one of Jessica’s managers, who was off-duty but happened to be driving by with her husband just before 11 p.m., told police: there had been a suspicious man in the Exxon parking lot that night. He repeatedly opened and closed the rear hatch of his silver car. Once he had it closed, he’d driven off.
Soon enough, the DNA test results returned, confirming that the blood belonged to Jessica. With this evidence, an official investigation was launched. Many leading field experts, intelligence analysts, and scientists were brought in to help. Yet, for more than three years, their search for answers was all in vain…
During that time, 75 people worked on the case—totaling 12,000 hours. With just shy of 1,500 tips examined, 53 residences inspected, and multiple land and water searches, they still had nothing. What could’ve possibly happened to Jessica that night?
Finally, a witness came forward with some potentially helpful information. He described a Caucasian man in his thirties who was around six feet tall—and driving a silver SUV. He said the man was seen in the station flirting with Jessica just before she disappeared.
Then, authorities finally got their big break. They managed to track down a local factory worker named Jeffrey Willis, who had recently attempted to abduct a teenager form the area.
Jeffrey was brought into custody for his possible connection to Jessica’s disappearance—and he was also quickly charged with the 2014 murder of another local woman, Rebekah Sue Bletsch. Obviously, police thought they’d found a man responsible for many crimes.
There were some clues that pointed to Jeffrey being the suspect. Not only did he suspiciously fail to show up to work on the evening of Jessica’s disappearance, but he was also a frequent customer at the gas station where she worked. Authorities then attained a search warrant for his home and car…
While searching his silver van, authorities uncovered gun ammunition, a knife, several syringes, and video recorders. Inside his home, they found a list of women’s telephone numbers, underage pornography—and evidence of a man deeply obsessed with serial killers.
But that wasn’t all authorities found in Jeffrey’s home. As they continued, they found a file on his computer titled “VICS.” When they clicked the file to open it, they couldn’t believe what was hiding inside…
Not only did they find images of Rebekah’s lifeless body, but ones of Jessica’s, as well. Later that year, prosecutor D.J. Hilton claimed they’d found enough evidence to prove that Jeffrey had murdered Jessica, and that a man named Kevin Lavern Bluhm was likely an accessory in the crime.
The next day, a judge ruled both Jeffrey and Kevin would have to stand trial for their crimes. Simultaneously, a bill—known as “Jessica’s Law”—was proposed. It would require gas stations to offer better security for late-night employees.
Jeffrey and Kevin continue to await trail in connection to Jessica’s disappearance and likely death. Meanwhile, her family hopes their daughter, and any other affected victims, will receive the justice they so rightfully deserve.
It’s tragic to think Jessica was only trying to provide for her family when her life was cut short. Let’s hope she and her family finds justice and closure from this tragedy.
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