Update: 2:45 p.m.: Michael Wolfe has been arraigned and did not enter a plea. He is being held without bail at Yamhill County Jail. He is scheduled to appear again in court June 7.
Update 4:50 p.m.: An update from the Yamhill County District Attorney’s Office has been appended at the bottom.
Cell phone records track a Gaston man traveling from his McMinnville work to Salem the night Karissa Fretwell, 25, and her 3-year-old son disappeared, according to a police affidavit filed Tuesday in Yamhill County Circuit Court.
The affidavit also said cell phone records place Fretwell’s own cell phone in the area of Michael J. Wolfe’s Gaston home the following afternoon.
A criminal complaint filed Tuesday accused Wolfe of kidnapping Fretwell and her son and killing them in Yamhill County in the hours after she was last seen at her Salem apartment. The pair have not been found.
Wolfe was to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon for aggravated murder and kidnapping.
The affidavit by Det. Anthony VanDekoppel of the Salem Police Department details the police investigation that led them to Wolfe one day after Fretwell was reported missing by her family.
Besides Det. VanDekoppel, the affidavit recounted the role of Salem detectives Daniel Tallan, Scott Emmons and Stuart Gamble, as well as Sgt. Jacob Burke.
The affidavit recounts Wolfe’s statement to police that he hadn’t seen the pair since a court hearing in Dallas in April but how cell phone records suggested otherwise.
DOCUMENT: Read the police affidavit
A family member, not identified in the affidavit, arrived at Fretwell’s apartment in west Salem on May 17. It had been four days since the relative heard from Fretwell, according to the affidavit. The family member said it was “very concerning,” because she regularly checked in.
The relative found the door to Fretwell’s home unlocked, the television on, with several necessities left behind. Those included her bank card, her Oregon Trail card for benefits and eyeglasses “she can’t be without.”
They were “items Karissa would need to take care of William,” the affidavit said, and her two cars remained parked outside.
By then, Fretwell had missed three shifts at work, the affidavit said. Salem detectives who talked to other friends and family who reported that she had not been seen since May 13.
One of the last people to see her that day was her babysitter, who told detectives Fretwell picked up her son about 4 p.m. that day.
“The babysitter stated over the past three months she has had several conversations with Karissa about William’s father (Michael) and Michael’s wife. The babysitter said Karissa told her they had threatened Karissa that they were going to take William and get custody of him,” according to the affidavit.
One family member noted that Fretwell had recently been in court with Wolfe. On April 15, a Polk County circuit judge in Dallas ordered Wolfe pay more than $900 a month in child support, court records show.
Detectives interviewed Wolfe at his Gaston home the following day, May 18, the affidavit showed. He told detectives he worked his normal 12-hour overnight shift from May 10 to May 13, then had the following week off, the affidavit said.
He is employed at Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, where he met Fretwell when she delivered sandwiches to the plant, according to friends interviewed by Salem Reporter over the weekend.
During the first police interview, “Michael maintained he had no contact with Karissa or William recently, and did not know where they were,” the affidavit said. “Michael further stated he worked his whole shift on May 13th, 2019 and got off work around 6:00 a.m. or a little earlier on May 14th, 2019.”
Wolfe also told detectives he had not been to Salem in over a year, the affidavit said.
The night of May 13, Wolfe was reportedly seen on security footage at Cascade Steel driving in a golf cart to a carpenter shop, then walking toward trees behind the shop and toward a parking lot.
Security officials at Cascade Steel told detectives “this would be outside of protocol,” according to the affidavit.
Meanwhile, cell phone records obtained by detectives showed Wolfe’s phone started heading south that evening — the last day Fretwell was seen. By 9 p.m., his phone connected to a cell tower in downtown Salem.
The radius of the downtown Salem cell tower encompasses Fretwell’s home, the affidavit noted. Wolfe’s phone continued to use that cell phone tower until about 1:38 a.m., when tracks north, connecting to a tower in Keizer, then again near his work at 2:12 a.m.
Security footage showed Wolfe returned from behind the bushes at 2:35 a.m., according to the affidavit. He is reportedly seen carrying a white trash bag. He left shortly before 3 a.m.
Cell phone records placed his phone near his Gaston home at 4:34 a.m., the affidavit said.
Cell records for Fretwell’s phone showed the phone sent a text message around 2:27 p.m. May 14, in the same vicinity as the Gaston-area cell phone tower, according to the affidavit.
“This cell tower would place it within the area to include the property at … Michael’s residence. On this same date, (a detective) told me he also received location information placing Karissa’s phone in the area of Michael’s work,” the affidavit said.
“I believe the only known person who would benefit from the disappearance or criminal homicide of Karissa and William is Michael,” the affidavit said.
Update 4:50 p.m.:
Wolfe did not enter a plea during his arraignment. Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said pleas are often entered later in the pre-trial phases.
“I would not expect him to enter a plea,” Berry said.
Berry also said he could not talk about any details of the investigation beyond what has been publicly disclosed.
“I’m not getting into details on the investigation. It’s just way, way too early,” he said.
When asked if it’s possible the investigation could identify any more suspects, Berry said “I”m not in a position to say there are or nor not other people believed to have been involved.”
Wolfe is being held without bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again June 7.
Michael J. Wolfe, 52, of Gaston, is charged with aggravated murder and kidnapping. (Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office photo)
Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.