Whitney Heichel, the beautiful 21 year old barista at a Gresham, Oregon area Starbucks who disappeared on her way to work this past Tuesday morning, was found murdered in the Larch Mountain area during a police search for the young woman. She was best known for her engaging smile and very friendly demeanor by her loyal customers at the Starbucks where she failed to show up for work at 7am on Tuesday from the short 5 minute drive in her neighborhood and was soon reported missing. Her SUV was found abandoned with a broken window and a child later found her cellphone, only furthering a desperate search that eventually led to the arrest of her 24 year neighbor, Jonathan Holt on aggravated murder charges related to her death and disappearance.
The story first started out as a local story in the Portland-Gresham area, but soon became a national crime story as the search became more frantic by police, family and friends. Whitney was a member of a large Gresham area Jehovah’s Witness congregation, and church members quickly helped in the search efforts for the young woman who was very religious and attended church services twice a week. Whitney was known for her kindness and friendly demeanor, who despite her young age was a like a mother to so many persons. She was universally praised as a simply wonderful person.
Jonathan Holt quickly became a suspect as crime lab evidence began to tie him to Whitney’s SUV and his police interviews began to unravel into inconsistent stories. Police had interviewed Holt on Wednesday and Thursday, but finally arrested the neighbor of the young woman during a Friday night police interview after the crime lab had put together more evidence linking the neighbor or to the crime.
So far, police have had no word whether robbery or sexual assault might have motivated the crime. But, her credit card was later used at a gas station about 2 hours after she was supposed to start work, and it appeared to some witness that Holt was driving her around. And another undisclosed report also suggests that possibly some problems parking her SUV might have contributed to some problem with Holt, when Whitney was very tired and had trouble parking her large SUV one day. The vehicle was found in heavily damaged condition at a WalMart parking lot with both interior damage as well as a broken window, which might suggest that Holt went into a violent rage at some point and then trashed the vehicle and assaulted the young woman. But, her method of death hasn’t yet been publicly disclosed by the police. But, it appears that Holt took control of the vehicle and drove the victim around for two hours before later dumping her body at Larch Mountain, and abandoning the vehicle and her cellphone. Certainly. many more details of this major crime story will emerge in the following days.