As Jeffrey Willis left a Michigan courtroom prior to sentencing Monday, he blew a kiss to the family of the woman he murdered three years ago, MLive reports. In what the Muskegon County prosecutor calls an "unprecedented" move, Willis chose to return to jail rather than hear his sentence—or the statements of Rebekah Bletsch's family, according to WOOD. "This coward should have been here to listen to us," Bletsch's mother, Debra Reamer, told WXMI. "We deserve our right to tell him exactly how we feel." After Willis left the courtroom, Reamer and Bletsch's sister Nicole Winberg gave statements and the county prosecutor read a letter from Bletsch's husband. Willis was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Sheriff Michael Poulin took it upon himself to make sure Willis didn't start that sentence without hearing from Bletsch's family. He recorded their statements on a CD, and officers transporting Willis to prison on Wednesday played the recording for him five times on the way. "I don't find it that important that Jeffrey Willis heard what the family had to say, but that the family knew he heard what they said," Poulin tells MLive. Bletsch's sister Jessica Josephson agrees. "It brings a little bit of peace, a little bit of comfort," she says. Bletsch, a mother, was shot while jogging after work. Authorities believe Willis wanted to sexually torture her but killed her when she wouldn't get in his van. He will return to court in March to stand trial in the 2013 death of another mother whose body hasn't been found. (Read more murder stories.)