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Cellphone of missing Starbucks barista recovered in Oregon

October 19, 2012|By Joseph Serna
  • Clint Heichel, husband of Whitney Heichel, breaks down as he attempts to speak at a news conference in Oregon this week about his wife's disappearance.
Clint Heichel, husband of Whitney Heichel, breaks down as he attempts to… (Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian/Associated…)

The search continues for a missing Oregon woman who vanished on her way to work this week, with police saying that her cellphone was found in a field by a group of kids playing near an apartment complex in suburban Portland.

“Obviously, this is a very favorable find for us,” said Lt. Claudio Grandjean, Gresham Police Department’s lead investigator in the case, at a Friday news conference. “Every day when we get evidence, we’re closer. The evidence tells you a story.”

The phone is the latest evidence authorities have recovered as they try to piece together what happened to Whitney Heichel, 21, a Starbucks barista who vanished in the five-minute commute from her Gresham home to work.

Detectives are scheduled to update the case at a 10 a.m. Saturday news conference.

Heichel’s phone was found between two other locations where detectives recovered evidence, officials said. The phone, which was turned off, contained text messages from family and friends asking Heichel's whereabouts and whether she was OK, Grandjean said.

Police said records showed Heichel's ATM card had been used at a local gas station at 9:14 a.m. Tuesday, more than two hours after she was scheduled to start work. Her Ford Explorer was found that afternoon at a local Wal-Mart with the passenger window smashed out.

“The forensic evidence tells us a story,” Grandjean said. “That story is best told in the lab. And we’ll share that story when it's appropriate.”

Police say they are not ruling out any suspects, but added that there was no reason to suspect her husband, Clint Heichel, or other relatives in her disappearance.

“The longer the time goes and we don’t know where she is, that in itself tells us that a crime might have been committed,” Grandjean said. “When someone goes missing for three or four days, the possibilities become more troubling.”

joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna

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