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Murder suspect hears charges

The Gresham man accused of killing Whitney Heichel was arraigned Monday afternoon in Clackamas County Circuit Court on seven counts, including aggravated murder with a firearm.

Jonathan Daniel Holt, 24, allegedly kidnapped, robbed and orally sodomized the 21-year-old woman, according to the court’s charging documents.by: CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - Jonathan Daniel Holt faces seven charges of aggravated murder with a firearm

Holt is being held without bail at the Clackamas County Jail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 26.

Holt also faces charges of concealing his actions by murdering Heichel.

A plea was not entered during Monday’s arraignment.

Holt appeared in court via satellite television, hunched over and close to tears.

Heichel, 21, disappeared at about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, after leaving her apartment to go to her 7 a.m. shift at a Starbucks just two minutes away. She never made it.

Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger announced the discovery of Heichel’s body and Holt’s arrest during a rare 10 p.m. press conference on Friday, Oct. 19.

Heichel, whose body was found on Larch Mountain, died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Multnomah County medical examiner’s office. No other details were released.

Heichel and Holt were acquaintances, who lived in the same Heatherwood Apartment complex, in the 700 block of Southeast Mount Hood Highway, and attended the same Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Gresham.

Detectives identified Holt, who is married, as a possible suspect on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Holt attended Parkrose High School, graduating in 2006 with a 3.35 grade point average, according to the Parkrose School District.

Heichel’s family, including her husband, Clint, were notified of the arrest and the discovery of her body on Friday night.

“And as you can imagine this was tragic news for them,” Junginger said.

Jim Vaughn, a family spokesman, asked for privacy in order for the family to grieve.

“Our loss and heartache is too much to bear right now.”

When police began searching for Heichel, they talked to several people believed to have information about her whereabouts, including Holt on Wednesday.

“When he was brought to our attention, it was in the same way many of the other people were,” Grandjean said. “It was just somebody to talk to who may have information.”

On Thursday, Holt came in for a second interview, in which detectives noted inconsistencies with his story and collected a DNA sample, as well as his fingerprints. Police then received additional evidence tying Holt to Heichel’s car.

That night, children playing in a field near a Troutdale apartment complex in the 700 block of Southwest 257th Avenue found Heichel’s cell phone. This discovery led to more evidence that further narrowed the investigation’s focus on Holt.

On Friday evening, after a third interview, police arrested Holt on an allegation of aggravated murder.

“There is no question that our community has been shaken to the core,” said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. “To say that this case brought fear and anxiety to the community is a vast understatement. As we watched these events unfold, Whitney in many ways represented all of our wives, daughters, sisters, friends and loved ones.”

Bemis and Junginger praised the collaborative effort of police from many jurisdictions in finding both the victim and the alleged killer. “I have never been prouder,” Junginger said, his voice breaking, adding that “these investigators have worked around the clock and have poured their hearts and souls into this case. ... In my 35 years in law enforcement, this is one of the finest collaborations of police work I’ve ever seen.”

Bemis said Heichel’s family has “experienced the unimaginable” given the case’s outcome.

“We mourn the loss of a special girl today,” he said. “But in the face of this tragedy, we will see justice served.”