(NEW YORK) — The search for missing barista Whitney Heichel, 21, came to a close Friday night when police found her body and arrested a neighbor in connection with her death.
Police found Heichel’s body on Larch Mountain, a 40-minute drive up winding roads from her home in Gresham, Ore.
They arrested Jonathan Holt, 24, an acquaintance and neighbor, after a series of interviews reportedly didn’t add up and they found his fingerprints and DNA in her recovered car.
“Really words can’t begin to express the sadness that our families are experiencing tonight,” family spokesman Jim Vaughn said.
Heichel, 21, was reported missing on Tuesday morning when she did not show up for work at Starbucks, which was just a five minute drive from her home. Not long after, her Ford Explorer was found abandoned in a Walmart parking lot with its passenger side window shattered.
Her husband, Clinton, reported her missing at 10 a.m., about two and a half hours after she was supposed to report for work.
“I called her several times,” Clinton Heichel said Wednesday. “I texted her several times and then actually at about 9:30ish, her phone got to the point where you would call and it went straight to voicemail.”
Whitney Heichel’s bank card was used to get gas at two different gas stations within eight minutes, her husband said, and police had been studying a surveillance video from the first station.
A man told police he recognized Heichel sitting in the passenger seat of her car at another station shortly before 9:30 a.m., but a man was driving.
Children playing outside an apartment building found Heichel’s phone in some bushes on Thursday, and their parents knew it was Heichel’s immediately because the screensaver showed her picture. It also had text messages asking if she was okay.
Earlier in the week, a search team discovered tire tracks, broken glass and Heichel’s license plate on Larch Mountain, where they would later find her body.
Her mother, Lorelei Ritmiller, spoke to the city council on Thursday.
“”She’s gentle. She’s compassionate…She’s this compassionate laughing person. Her heart is as big as the sun … This is just a great human being. This is a person you’d think no one could ever hurt,” Ritmiller said, according to ABC News affiliate KATU.
Ritmiller said she saw her daughter for the last time on Monday, and they talked about her greatest hope, which was to have children.
“Whitney in many ways represented all of our wives, daughters, and loved ones,” said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis.
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