Whitney Heichel's family hosts community open house - KPTV - FOX 12

Whitney Heichel's family hosts community open house

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Clint Heichel Clint Heichel

Leaning on each other for support, that's how Clint Heichel says he and his family are coping in the days after Whitney's Heichel's body was found and Jonathan Holt was arrested for murder.

"It's hard to think that she's gone. I don't know how to deal with it," Clint Heichel said. "We're just holding up each other as we fall down."

Support from the community, he said, has helped as well.

"Our hearts are full. The community has been so responsive to pull together in support of me and my family and Whitney's family," he said. "It's huge."

The Gresham community connected with the young woman shortly after she disappeared on her way to work at a Starbucks location near her home last week.

While friends and police searched for Whitney Heichel, 21, her picture was posted in businesses throughout Gresham.

After her body was discovered on Larch Mountain, community members donated to the family at several fundraisers and offered a lot of support at area coffee shops.

In thanks, the family hosted community members at an open house at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses on Salquist Road Friday.

Thousands attended, standing in a long line to get a few moments with Whitney Heichel's parents, siblings and extended family, including her in-laws.

Whitney Heichel's relatives returned words of condolence with expressions of gratitude. They offered hugs.

"They're amazingly strong and they know they will see her again," said Robin Steele, after meeting with the family. "Like I heard one of her family members say, every day is a day closer to when we'll see her again, so. That was good to see."

Family and friends hope the focus will now turn from how the young woman's life ended, to how she lived: Full of love, joy and devotion to family and her Jehovah's Witness faith.

"If people can relate to that, I think people should always look for the good in each other and encourage the good in each other," said Jim Vaugh, who has acted as family spokesman since Whitney Heichel disappeared. "And we see that this tragedy has encouraged so much good in other people."

The mother of Whitney Heichel posted a letter to the public online Friday, saying "Beautiful Whitney beat us to paradise."

Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Whitney Heichel's body was found on Larch Mountain three days after she disappeared between her Gresham apartment and the nearby Starbucks where she worked. More>>

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