Michigan man accused of murder, kidnapping gets 2 trials

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MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) - A western Michigan man will face separate trials in the murder of a gas station clerk and kidnapping of a teenager.

A Muskegon judge decided Monday that Jeffrey Willis first will stand trial next month for murder and kidnapping in the 2013 disappearance of the clerk, Jessica Heeringa.

That will be followed by a trial in the 2016 case, in which a teenager escaped his van and went to police.

Prosecutors sought to combine the cases because of their similarities. Defense attorneys argued the cases are complex and should be treated individually.

Willis was convicted last year in a third case, the 2014 slaying of jogger Rebekah Bletsch. He's serving a life sentence for shooting her.