Questions remain after missing woman’s body found

Gresham woman's death, neighbor's arrest unexplained



GRESHAM, Ore. — The discovery of a 21-year-old woman’s body on a remote, forested mountain gave a terrible answer to the family, friends and church members who worked so hard to find her.

But it remained unclear Saturday what led police to a neighbor who quickly emerged as a suspect in her death.

Jonathan Holt, 24, a resident of the Gresham apartment complex where Whitney Heichel lived with her husband, was arrested for investigation of aggravated murder Friday night, about the same time her body was found on Larch Mountain, east of Gresham.

He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Clackamas County.

Police said autopsy results would not be released Saturday and dismissed speculation that Holt was anything more than as an acquaintance of Heichel’s.

“There is no evidence that has surfaced in the investigation leading investigators to believe there was anything more,” according to a city news release.

Heichel reportedly left her apartment Tuesday morning for her job as a Starbucks barista. She never showed up for her 7 a.m. shift, and three hours later, her husband, Clint, called police. He told them he tried to reach Whitney multiple times after her boss alerted him that she hadn’t arrived.

Police said her ATM card was used at a nearby Troutdale gas station at 9:14 a.m. Tuesday. Two hours later, family and friends discovered her sport utility vehicle in a Walmart parking lot with the passenger side window smashed.

Some of her possessions were in a trash bin nearby, and a child later found her cellphone in a field between the gas station and the Walmart.

Police began to search Larch Mountain on Wednesday, believing that Heichel’s SUV had been driven there, and discovered her body Friday night. The family’s search team had found a license plate and other “items of interest” on Larch Mountain, police Chief Craig Junginger said.

Holt first came to their attention Wednesday, when he volunteered to be interviewed, Junginger said, and two interviews revealed inconsistencies in his statements. He submitted to fingerprint and DNA analysis, and that helped tie him to the SUV, the chief said.

It was not immediately clear if Holt had obtained a lawyer. He remained held without bail at the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Police did not respond to requests for comment Saturday. Jim Vaughn, a family spokesman, thanked police for their commitment in the case.

“To say that this case brought fear and anxiety to the community is a vast understatement,” Mayor Shane Bemis said. “As we watched these events unfold, Whitney in many ways represented all of our wives, daughters, sisters, friends and loved ones.”