At a Glance ...


Appeals court upholds conviction in gas station clerk’s murder

MUSKEGON (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction of a man in the 2013 disappearance and death of a gas station clerk in western Michigan.

Some evidence found at Jeffrey Willis’ home should have been excluded at trial, the court said, but it doesn’t outweigh other “strong untainted evidence” that showed he was responsible for Jessica Heeringa’s death.

Heeringa, 25, disappeared in 2013 while working at a gas station in Norton Shores in Muskegon County. Her body hasn’t been found.

The appeals court on Thursday found no problem with prosecutors telling jurors about Willis’ connection to the death of another woman, Rebekah Bletsch.

Bletsch, 36, was fatally shot while jogging in 2014. Willis, 49, is serving life sentences for both deaths.

Willis was arrested in 2016 when a teenager said he tried to kidnap her. The arrest jump-started investigations of the Bletsch homicide and Heeringas disappearance.

Bikes help recycle Christmas trees in Traverse City

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) — A group that promotes bicycling in the Traverse City area is recycling Christmas trees with two wheels.

In exchange for a $25 donation, Norte will take trees to Hull Park, Traverse City's tree drop-off site. Volunteers make door-to-door visits on a bike with a trailer attached to the rear.

The donations support "getting more kids on bikes doing more good for the community,” said Abby Havill, a Norte staff member.

Norte was started by Ty and Johanna Schmidt, who noticed that many kids were being driven to school. They organized bike rides from their house. Norte has grown to include a bike shop and youth empowerment projects.

Pothole Christmas tree inspires pastor to write holiday song

McCOMB, Miss. (AP) — A scraggly metal Christmas tree planted in a pothole has inspired a Mississippi minister to pen a holiday song.

One bit asks, “If a man can take a pothole and bring the whole world together, the question is what are you doing to spread the Christmas joy?”

The Rev. Leon Hitchens of Webb Chapel Church in Liberty wrote “Pothole Christmas Tree” after local radio host Fern Crossley showed him the makeshift holiday scene, the Enterprise-Journal of McComb reported.

The song celebrates John Drummond, who stuck the base of a wire Christmas tree into the traffic cone sticking out of the pothole. Neighbors decorated it with tinsel, ornaments and a large star on the top.

An Associated Press account went worldwide, leading to additional coverage.

Drivers are now going out of their way to check out the pothole and its decoration.

“I was really moved by the story,” Hitchens said. “All because of the spirit of Christmas and how Mr. Drummond took what was supposed to be a bad situation and made it for the good.”

The city board said at a recent meeting that crews are repairing poles as tight finances allow, and a $3.2 million bond issue dedicated to street paving may let the city fill others.


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