Person of interest named in search for missing Salem mom, son; multiple areas being searched

Photos of Karissa Fretwell and William "Billy" Fretwell on left. Photo of Michael John Wolfe on...
Photos of Karissa Fretwell and William "Billy" Fretwell on left. Photo of Michael John Wolfe on right. Photos released by Salem Police Department.(Salem Police Department)
Updated: May. 19, 2019 at 6:47 PM PDT
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YAMHILL COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) - A person of interest has been named in the case of a missing mother and her 3-year-old son, as crews have launched searches in multiple areas.

Karissa Fretwell, 25, and her son William “Billy” Fretwell were reported missing last week. Karissa Fretwell did not report for work May 13 and family members said they have not heard from her since that time.

Crews were searching a rural Yamhill County property in the Hopewell area and a Gaston home as part of the investigation Thursday.

By Thursday afternoon, police said they were looking for a person of interest, 52-year-old Michael John Wolfe of Gaston. Court documents state Wolfe is the biological father of William.

Court documents list Wolfe as the owner of the Gaston home off Northwest Phillips Road. Neighbors said police and FBI agents have been parked around the area since Monday and have been going door-to-door since.

“They asked if I knew anything about him and I just said I didn’t,” said neighbor Phyllis Hayes. “I met him a couple weeks ago – for the first time – and he just seemed like any old neighbor.”

Karissa Alyn Fretwell and Billy Fretwell. (Photos provided by Salem Police Department)
Karissa Alyn Fretwell and Billy Fretwell. (Photos provided by Salem Police Department)(Salem Police Department)

Another neighbor said rumors about Fretwell and William’s disappearance have been swirling ever since police showed up.

“We were just kind of thinking, ‘Oh jeez, maybe this is related,’ and now it is, and it’s kind of a sad, scary deal,” Randy Ruggles said.

“It’s just like you don’t know your neighbor – you think you do – then something like this happens and it’s just out of the blue,” Ruggles added.

Ruggles said Wolfe and his wife have been living at the home for at least a decade.

Thursday, law enforcement searched Wolfe’s home and property late into the night.

At Karissa Fretwell’s Northwest Salem apartment, a neighbor said she heard some kind of argument coming from the home a few months ago.

“There was yelling, screaming, a child crying, we heard screaming saying, ‘Get away,’” neighbor Rachel Allen said.

She said her husband and other neighbors called police.

“I would say it was violent screaming,” Allen said.

Fretwell’s disappearance, Allen said, is leaving this close-knit apartment complex with an eerie feeling of what may have happened to her.

Court documents reveal that Fretwell and Wolfe had William together in 2016, but she filed for a court order in 2018 to prove Wolfe was the father.

Wolfe was served with that order last July, after it was determined he was William’s biological father. Wolfe was ordered to pay child support and health insurance for his son, according to an order that went out last month.

The court documents said Fretwell believed Wolfe wouldn’t pay child support without a court order.

Wolfe is a white man, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs more than 200 pounds. He has thinning brown hair and hazel eyes.

“Hopefully there will be some good that come out of this; they’ll find them, hopefully OK,” Ruggles said. “I guess we’ll have to just wait and see what happens.”

Reached by phone Thursday evening, Wolfe’s adult son declined to comment on his father, his mother or the investigation.

Fretwell’s mother has also declined to speak on her daughter and grandson’s disappearance.

Anyone with information about Wolfe or his current location is asked to call the Salem Police Department tip line at 503-588-8477.

“Even though I don’t know her personally it really hurts, we want her found safe. We’re praying for her to be found safe,” Allen said.

FOX 12 crews knocked on the door of Fretwell’s apartment Thursday but no one came to the door.

Thursday’s searches involved the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office, Salem Police Department, FBI, Oregon State Police and Yamhill County Search and Rescue, among other agencies.