Police: Person of interest now charged with murder in connection with missing Salem mom, son

Michael John Wolfe, jail booking photo
Michael John Wolfe, jail booking photo(Marion County Jail)
Updated: May. 24, 2019 at 5:19 PM PDT
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SALEM, Ore. (KPTV) - A man previously identified as a person of interest is now a murder suspect in connection with the disappearance of a Salem woman and her 3-year-old son.

Police said Friday that Michael John Wolfe, 52, of Gaston, is being charged with two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of kidnapping.

Police said Thursday that Wolfe was a person of interest in the search for Karissa Fretwell, 25, and her son William “Billy” Fretwell.

The mother and son were reported missing last week. Court documents state Wolfe is the biological father of William.

Crews searched a rural Yamhill County property and Wolfe’s home in Gaston as part of the investigation Thursday.

Police said Friday they are continuing to search for Karissa and William Fretwell in rural Yamhill County. A dive team has also been utilized as part of the search efforts.

A Salem Police Department spokesman said the murder charges against Wolfe do not mean that the missing mother and son are dead. He said police had probable cause to arrest Wolfe on those charges, but the charges could change as the investigation continues.

“We work toward the worst possible scenario and continue to hope for the best,” said Lt. Treven Upkes.

Wolfe was arrested at a doughnut shop in downtown Portland, according to police. He was being taken to the Yamhill County Jail, as investigators believe that’s the county where the crime occurred.

A possible motive for the charges against him have not been released.

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)

FOX 12 spoke with a woman Friday night who says she is a close friend of Karissa’s. Bethany Brown says she has no doubt in her mind that Wolfe is guilty.

“How could he do that to her and him? Little Billy, that’s his son,” Brown said. “I hope he rots in prison for the rest of his life.”

Brown says Karissa had a bond with her son that was unlike any other.

“Well, dad wasn’t in his life, so his mom was everything,” Brown said. “Karissa didn’t deserve any of this, Billy didn’t deserve any of this.”

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.

Police said Wolfe is married and officers know where his wife is and she’s not in danger.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Salem Police Department tip line at 503-588-8477.