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Evidence leads to a vacant home where investigators believe Jeffery Willis took his victim

Jurors in the Jeffery Willis trial got their first look Tuesday at where investigators believe he took Jessica Heeringa after she disappeared in April 2013 – the home of his deceased grandfather. (WWMT)

Jurors in the Jeffery Willis trial got their first look Tuesday at where investigators believe he took Jessica Heeringa after she disappeared in April 2013 – the home of his deceased grandfather.

The testimony included explanations from a cell phone expert and a Michigan State Police detective as they narrowed down the location, and then collected evidence from the home.

Investigators said they were alerted to Baily Street home by a member of Willis’ family, who knew he had access.

They also tracked Willis’ cell phone activity the night Heeringa disappeared.

“The phone is going to try and give you the best service, it could use different towers,” said Jim MacDonald, a certified expert in cell phone data and a sergeant with the Michigan State Police. “You can take a record and determine from which side of the tower the record was made.”

The tower use data reveals patterns, and narrows down the area where the phone is being used, he said.

“All the cell tower pings show him near his deceased grandfather’s old home on Bailey Street,” MacDonald said. “He had no activity on his phone from 12:05 a.m. to 3:47 p.m. on April 27. … The phone was likely turned off.”

Watch live: Trial testimony can be viewed live on our watch page.


In other testimony, from Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Zachary Sparks, the juror got a look inside that home.

The jury was shown photos of the padlocked door leading to the basement, and of the rooms in the basement.

There was a piece of paper investigators found in the garbage left in the garage, showing a handwritten note with a list of items. Many of those items had been revealed to the jury earlier, as part of what police called Willis’ rape kit. Those items included a vibrator bag, hand cuffs, a restraint bar, a hood and zip ties.

Another photo showed nearly a dozen bottles of bleach and cleaner found in the basement. All were empty when investigators found them.

“It seemed very unusual that so many cleaning materials were gathered in one corner of the room," Sparks said.

Prosecutors said they have a few more witnesses to call. After that, the defense team will be presenting witnesses and evidence.


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