GRESHAM, Ore. -- Gresham police announced late Friday that they had found the body of Whitney Heichel on Larch Mountain, and they had arrested Jonathan Holt of Gresham in her murder.
Police say Holt was an acquaintaince who lived in the same apartment complex. Holt was arrested after being interviewed several times by police.
Police searched at Larch Mountain Friday for a third day Friday. The vehicle Heichel was driving had a missing licnse plate when it was located at a Wood Village Wamart. That license place was found at Larch Mountain, and that clue is what led police to search the area where her body was ultimately found.
Earlier Friday, investigators said Heichel's cell phone, found Thursday by some children, contained messages from her husband and family, and possibly location data Investigators say the phone was turned off when it was found Thursday evening by children playing. Police hoped to collect data from the phone in additional to the messages they found on it, but they did give specific details about physical evidence found on the phone.
Timeline: The search for Whitney Heichel
There was still no evidence that a crime had been committed in connection with the disappearance of 21-year-old Whitney Heichel, according to Gresham Police Lt. Claudio Grandjean. But he said the longer an investigation takes, the more likely it is that criminal activity might be involved.
"When someone's gone for three days, four days, the explanations become more troubling," he said.
Investigators said a child playing in a field near the Troutdale Terrace apartments at 701 SW 257th found Heichel's phone and turned it in to police. Gresham police called it "a very favorable find" and say they had been pulling data and physical evidence from the phone.
Friday, K-9s were being used to search the area of the apartment complex, which is about a mile and a half from the Shell gas station where Heichel's bank card was used the morning she disappeared. The search area is about two miles from the Wood Village Walmart where her abandoned SUV was found, with the passenger window broken out.
Investigators continued to search for evidence Friday in the Larch Mountain area. They expected to wrap up that search by noon, but were still there at 4 p.m.
Grandjean said that Clint Heichel was not a suspect in the case, but no one had been totally cleared. Grandjean said 50 new tips had come in to police overnight.
Whitney Heichel, 21, left for work at the Starbucks on Northeast Burnside Street in Gresham at her usual time of 6:45 a.m. but failed to show up. Her co-workers said she has always been very punctual. Heichel's husband called 911 to report her missing at about 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Gresham Police say they have treated the case as a criminal investigation since the beginning. Crews Wednesday searched for evidence at Dodge Park, in Sandy, and at Larch Mountain, above the Gorge. They said her vehicle had been to the two locations.
The Gresham police chief cautioned that the items seized at those locations may or may not end up being evidence tied to the case. Grandjean Thursday afternoon said police have found "some important items," but did not elaborate.
"We are hoping for the best and we're doing everything we can to find Whitney," he said. "We're using every investigative technique at our disposal."
He said he had been asked three times about a rumor that remains were found in the search, and he announced definitively, "The Medical Examiner is not on Larch Mountain and a body has not been found."
Family spokesman Jim Vaughn joined the press conference to say that people from all over the country had come to assist in the search and that they were "keeping positive about the whole situation."
Heichel's mother Lorelei Ritmiller described her daughter as someone willing help everyone. Her nickname was "momma" because she was just that to so many.
"She's not a picture, she's not a story, she's our daughter, she's a wife, she's a sister, she has five sisters and a brother. She has grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and thousands of people in the community of our faith that absolutely adore her," Ritmiller said. "She's sunshine in our hearts, She's gentle, she's compassionate."
Her husband, Clint Heichel, tried to address reporters at the Thursday press conference. After several tries, he walked away disconsolate and unable to speak.
Clint said Whitney kissed him goodbye at 6:45 Tuesday morning and that was the last time he saw her. He said Starbucks contacted him after she failed to show up for work, and he called and texted her "a million times," but she never responded.
Police released a timeline Wednesday that said her SUV pulled into a service station at 9:14 a.m., on 257th and Stark, and her bank card was used. They asked that anybody who might have seen Heichel or her vehicle call tip line at (503) 618-2719 with any information.
Timeline: The Search for Whitney Heichel
Clint told KGW he called 911 to report her missing just before 10 a.m.
Whitney's vehicle, a 1999 black Ford Explorer, was later found outside the Walmart in Wood Village at around 1 p.m., according to the police timeline. The SUV's passenger side window had been broken, investigators said.
"Police are interested in speaking to anybody who might have seen the vehicle between those hours," Grandjean said. "This would include the Troutdale area near I-84, as well as Fairview and Wood Village."
Police towed the SUV away as part of their investigation.
"The window was busted out, the backseats were down and there was mud on the tires and the car wasn't like that this morning," Clint said Tuesday. "It's highly irregular for her to disappear without any communication. I just hope and pray somebody saw something and that we'll hear from them soon."
A family friend also told KGW that several transactions were made on Heichel’s debit card, including at ATM machines and three different gas stations.
They said that gas station attendants at one of those locations -- a truck stop in Troutdale - remembered seeing her SUV and said Heichel was sitting in the passenger seat with a man driving. They said the man was acting suspicious and hurried, buying only a small amount if gas.
About 30 friends, family, and members of her Jehovah's Witness church have been searching for Heichel, along with police. They were also posting "Missing Person" posters around the area that showed photos and described Whitney as 5-foot-two-inches tall and weighing around 120 pounds.
Grandjean said 24 detectives were assigned to the case from Gresham, Fairview, Troutdale, Multnomah County, Oregon State Police and the state crime lab. He said updates on the search would be provided in daily press conferences.
He also said Starbucks and Walmart had contributed numerous man-hours and large amounts of video to help support police in the investigation.
Interactive Map: Last known locations of Whitney Heichel's vehicle (click on map)