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Oregon man to be charged in woman's killing

October 20, 2012|By Joseph Serna
  • Jonathan Daniel Holt, 25, is being held without bail at the Multnomah County Jail on suspicion of killing 21-year-old Whitney Heichel. He's scheduled to be arraigned sometime Monday.
Jonathan Daniel Holt, 25, is being held without bail at the Multnomah County… (Multnomah County Sheriff's…)

An Oregon man is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in the murder of a neighbor whose disappearance this week had, as one official put it, shaken the community to its core.

Jonathan Daniel Holt, 25, is being held without bail at the Multnomah County Jail on suspicion of killing 21-year-old Whitney Heichel sometime after her disappearance on her way to work as a Starbucks barista Tuesday morning.

Police said Holt, a neighbor and acquaintance of Heichel and her husband, was linked to her killing by evidence in her car and on her cellphone.

Heichel’s body was found on a nearby mountain Friday night. Police were arresting Holt at about the same time, said Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger.

Holt had been under investigation since almost the beginning, police said.

A day after detectives and Heichel’s family started finding evidence of her trail – her car in a neighboring city’s Wal-Mart parking lot with a window shattered, belongings tossed in a nearby dumpster, her ATM card used at a gas station miles away – police called in Holt for an interview.

On Thursday, police called in Holt for another interview. His answers were inconsistent from the day before, Junginger said. Detectives took a sample of his DNA and fingerprinted him. Later that day, Heichel’s cellphone was found.

“Every day when we get evidence, we’re closer,” lead investigator Lt. Claudio Grandjean told the media after the discovery. “The evidence tells you a story.”

The story led to Holt, officials said. Detectives called him in for a third and final interview Friday and he was taken into custody.

“There is no question that our community has been shaken to the core this week,” said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis in a news statement. “Gresham has become a big city over the years, but cases like this show instantly how tightly woven our small-town fabric remains.”

Police received more than 100 tips on Heichel’s whereabouts following her disappearance. Family friends started a Facebook page dedicated to helping find her, and a website and bank account were set up to help fund the search.

Jim Vaughn, a family spokesman, addressed the late Friday night news conference, thanking police for their commitment in the case, the Associated Press reported.

“Really, words can't begin to express the sadness that our families are experiencing tonight,” Vaughn said. “Whitney was a very loving person,” he added. “She was warm, she was kind, she was everything you would want in a friend, relative, spiritual fellow worshiper.”

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @josephserna

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