When Clint Heichel kissed his wife, Whitney, goodbye last Tuesday morning before she left for work, he never could have predicted the terrible news, and the resulting support from his community, that would come in the next week.
He called the police around 10:00 that morning to report Whitney missing after she failed to show up for her shift as a Starbucks barista at 7:00 am. The search would come to a tragic end on Friday night when the body of the 21-year-old woman was found on Larch Mountain, a 40-minute drive from the couple’s home in Gresham, Oregon, according to ABC News. Their neighbor Jonathan Holt, 24, was arrested on Friday night in connection with Heichel’s death.
“Really, words can’t begin to express the sadness that our families are experiencing tonight,” Jim Vaughn, a spokesman for the family, said Friday night. “Whitney was a very loving person, one who was loved by everyone. She had no enemies, she had no people who didn’t love her.”
Heichel’s ATM card was used at a nearby gas station at 9:14 am Tuesday morning, police said. Two hours later Whitney’s loved ones found her car abandoned in a Wal-Mart parking lot with the passenger window shattered. Her personal possessions were found in a trash bin, and a child found her cell phone in a field between the Wal-Mart and gas station.
Police haven’t released much information about Holt other than he was said to have been outside the apartment complex when Heichel left for work early Tuesday morning. The Associated Press reported that a city news release revealed there’s “no evidence that has surfaced in the investigation leading investigators to believe there was anything more.”
Holt volunteered to be interviewed by police in the days after Heichel’s disappearance, and after two conversations with the man, inconsistencies emerged. Forensic tests revealed that Holt had been in Heichel’s SUV, a finding that, combined with other evidence that surfaced throughout the week, has led to a charge of aggravated murder.
“It was a totality of information that got us to the point where we believed we had enough information that Holt was responsible for her disappearance,” Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger told the Oregonian. Holt is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in court.
The Oregon community seems to have rallied to help investigators uncover as much as they can about the case and to support the Heichel family. A group from the Jehovah’s Witness church Whitney belonged to found the license plate from her car in a garbage can near Larch Mountain, and the lead investigator on the case had to force police officers to go home before exhausting themselves.
“When we’re in the trenches, working the long hours, I think we’re motivated by justice,” one officer told the Oregonian. “It is inspiring to work with people who sacrifice like that for others in that way.”