A Memorial Day vigil for a missing Salem mother and her son is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Maud Williamson State Recreation Site northwest of Salem.
Friends are organizing the candlelight vigil and prayers for Karissa Fretwell, 25, missing with her 3-year-old son Billy since May 13.
“We just want to build some hope,” said Mykeal Moats, a friend of Fretwell’s. “We should be getting loud and making sure that nobody stops looking for her.”
Police last week searched a Gaston home and rural property outside of Hopewell but did not find the mother and child.
On Friday, they arrested Michael J. Wolfe, 52, of Gaston, on two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of kidnapping. He is being held in the Yamhill County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Tuesday afternoon in McMinnville.
Police have not said why he was charged with murder, but asked for coåntinued public help in locating the missing pair.
Wolfe is the father of the boy, according to court records in Polk County, and he was recently ordered to pay child support to Fretwell.
The evening vigil is at a park not far from Hopewell, situated 12 miles north of Salem on Oregon Highway 221. The National Weather Service was forecasting party cloudy weather for later Monday.
Moats said there would be speakers and music at the event.
“I feel like people have gone quiet since the apprehension,” she said. “People are expecting a negative outcome.”
She met Fretwell when they attended classes at Chemeketa Community College, including studying American Sign Language to meet language requirements. At the time, Moats said, Fretwell was going to school, holding a job, and caring for her infant son.
“She would barely sleep,” Moats said. “She was pretty amazing.”
Moats said Fretwell was “very strong willed, independent, outspoken.”
Fretwell’s Facebook page listed her as a native of North Dakota who graduated high school in Dallas. She earned her associate’s degree from Chemeketa in 2016 and was enrolled at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.
Moats said Fretwell met Wolfe at a time when she was living in McMinnville and was a delivery driver for a sandwich shop. She made deliveries to Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, where Wolfe worked. Moats said Fretwell subsequently got a security job at the industrial plant.
Bethany Brown, another friend, said she met Fretwell when both worked at the sandwich shop. She confirmed the service to Cascade Steel, delivering to Wolfe.
“He would call and specifically ask for Karissa to deliver his food,” Brown said. “He would call almost every day to get food delivered from her. She would come back and say how he would make inappropriate comments.”
Company officials last week wouldn’t confirm the employment of either but said they were cooperating with police.
Darleen “Canada” Sells, a friend of Fretwell from high school days, said she knew of Wolfe as “John” and that “I was very upset” with her friend because of the age difference between the two.
“He was so controlling,” Sells said. “He would not quit calling her.”
Brown said that Fretwell went to the coast for the weekend with Wolfe and “that’s when she got pregnant.”
Moats said Fretwell told her that she found out she was pregnant three days after learning Wolfe was married. Moats said Fretwell decided to keep the child and said she told Wolfe that she wasn’t expecting anything from him.
Wolfe was concerned with that decision, Sells said.
“He didn’t want his marriage to get ruined,” Sells said.
Brown said, however, that Fretwell told her that Wolfe helped pay the cost of an apartment in McMinnville. She provided Wolfe a key and would return home to find him in her apartment.
Moats said she understood from Fretwell that Wolfe co-signed for that apartment. She said Fretwell told her as well that she would find Wolfe in the apartment when she got home.
“That worried her,” Moats said.
Moats said Fretwell told her that Wolfe subsequently “never left her alone,” showing up at her work and sending her messages. “She couldn’t get away from him,” Moats said.
Brown said that Fretwell was injured on the job at the sandwich shop and used a settlement to move to a new apartment in west Salem nearly two years ago. She recently was working for a Salem security company on a night shift, Brown said.
Brown recalled a recent Christmas, when Fretwell told her that Wolfe wanted to send gifts for the boy. He sent lingerie for Fretwell, Brown said.
The child changed Fretwell, Sells said.
“Once she got pregnant with him, there was motivation in that woman I have never seen,” Sells said, noting too she Fretwell was going to college and holding down a job while raising her son.
“I don’t know how she found time to cook,” Sells said.
Last year, Fretwell established paternity through a court-ordered test and the Polk County District Attorney’s Office pursued child support from Wolfe. Brown said Fretwell needed the financial support, but also wanted to establish more contact with Wolfe.
“She just wanted him to be a part of Billy’s life in some way,” Brown said. “She wanted Billy to know his dad.”
Brown said Fretwell shared social media messages from Wolfe as the child support matter proceeded.
“He told Karissa not to ruin his life,” Brown said. “He said he couldn’t afford the child support.”
Michael J. Wolfe, 52, of Gaston, faces murder and kidnapping charges following his arrest in Portland on Friday, May 24. (Yamhill County Sheriff's Office photo)
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