Tragedy in Gresham, Oregon

Whitney Heichel never made it to her job as a barrista at a local Starbucks last Tuesday (October 16). Her husband Clint reported her missing within three hours after she left for work.

Police detectives arrested Jonathan Holt on Friday after interviewing him at least three times during their investigation. Holt was charged with three counts of “aggravated murder.”

Officials said Holt kidnapped Ms. Heichel as she left for work in her Ford Explorer SUV Tuesday morning. They say that evidence indicates that he killed her somewhere in Clackamas County and then disposed of her body near Larch Mountain in Multnomah County. (Parts of the city of Portland extend into Multnomah County.) However, according to the police, because the murder occurred in Clackamas County, the case will be prosecuted within that jurisdiction.

Both Ms. Heichel and Jonathan Holt were Jehovah’s Witnesses and attended meetings at the Gresham Kingdom Hall. James Vaughn, one of the elders at that Kingdom Hall, has been representing Ms. Heichel’s family, making public statements on their behalf. Police credit members of that Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation for helping them look for clues into Ms. Heichel’s disappearance.

Detectives began searching Larch Mountain on Wednesday when evidence of her vehicle was found there. Other evidence includes video taken at a local gas station and a Wal-Mart store parking lot.

Jonathan Holt was described by elder Jim Vaughn as “an irregular attendee” of the Gresham Kingdom Hall. He also stated that members of his congregation were shocked to hear that Jonathan Holt was involved in such a horrible crime. Friends and acquaintances of Holt and his family described him as “ordinary” and “never a problem.” Holt grew up in northeast Portland and attended Parkrose High School. He married his girlfriend in 2010 and lived in the same Gresham apartment complex as the Heichels.

Jonathan Holt will make his first appearance before a judge on Monday, October 22nd. He is being held in Clackamas County Jail and is under “suicide watch.” It is unlikely that the judge will allow bail at this stage of the case.

Unfortunately, Jehovah’s Witnesses attending Gresham’s Kingdom Hall have not only suffered this dual tragedy involving Whitney Heichel and Jonathan Holt, but also have a female member of their congregation charged by Murfreesboro (TN) police with child abuse against her own children. Angela Montgomery, 50, a former “pioneer” member of the congregation, faces felony charges and trial in a Tennessee court for crimes alleged to have occurred in that state. She reportedly lives within two miles of the Heichels and attended meetings in the same Hall.

We will continue to report on this case as it progresses through the legal system. The editor is a current resident of the state of Oregon and a former Jehovah’s Witness. We will continue to monitor the progress of this case as it works its way through the legal system. We know that it will take a while, but our hope is that Ms. Heichel’s husband and family will find peace and strength in their faith and continue to get support from their brothers and sisters at their Kingdom Hall.

Even though we never met her, we too shed tears for Whitney…

Editor’s Note: I wish to express my sincere condolences to Whitney’s husband Clint and her parents and siblings. She didn’t deserve this. No one deserves to die at the beginning of the prime of her life. Whitney was a wonderful example of what most Jehovah’s Witnesses aspire to be – loving and family oriented Christians. I grieve for Whitney as I would for my own daughters or grandchildren. It is true that I am no longer a Jehovah’s Witness and I may disagree on many things that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe or practice, but I think we should all pray that Whitney gets the eternal reward she believed in, worked toward, and prayed for. May her family find justice and peace – and above all continued love and support from both Witnesses and non-Witnesses.

8 thoughts on “Tragedy in Gresham, Oregon

  1. Very sad and tragic. I cannot bare to think of how this young, innocent woman must have suffered such immense violence and fear in her last moments. My love goes out to her husand and family and friends.

  2. justice and peace, very well said my friend.

    Why do we do this to each other, life is too short to begin with.

    Keep the faith.

  3. Richard Kelly has written beautifully about JW’s and their penchant for control and violence against women in his books: Growing Up in Mama’s Club and The Ghosts from Mama’s Club.

  4. Thank you for taking action for justice on behalf of criminally mistreated Jehovah’s Witness members and hope it will bring justice and reassociation with family of those who quit due to good causes.

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