SALEM, OR (KTPV) - Surveillance video and cell phone records helped connect a man now charged with murder to the disappearance of a Salem woman and her 3-year-old son, according to court documents.

Michael John Wolfe, 52, is facing charges of kidnapping and aggravated murder.

The search continues for Karissa Fretwell, 25, and her son William. The Yamhill County district attorney confirmed Tuesday that prosecutors have evidence the mother and son were killed.

"Without having the bodies, it makes the case more complicated. But I will say, in sum, the evidence that has been gathered is all leading to a consistent conclusion that they’ve been murdered," said Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry.

Newly released court documents outline the investigation to this point.

Fretwell was last seen May 13. She was not in contact with family, babysitters or her employer after that date.

Family members checked on her apartment and found the front door unlocked, the TV on and important items left behind, including her bank card and eyeglasses, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Images: Search for missing Salem mother, son

Both of her vehicles were also parked outside.

Family members told investigators she had recently been in court with Wolfe, who is the biological father of William.

Wolfe was interviewed by police at his home in Gaston on May 18 and admitted to having an “intimate relationship” with Fretwell four years ago, according to court documents.

A probable cause affidavit states Wolfe admitted a recent child support hearing “did not go well” and he was ordered to pay $900 per month, but he also said he had not been in Salem in over a year and did not have a direct way to communicate with Fretwell.

Wolfe said he worked his normal 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. shift at Cascade Steel in McMinnville from May 10 through May 13, and then had the following week off, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit states a text message was sent from Fretwell’s phone at 2:27 p.m. May 14 and it was received by a cell tower 1.4 miles southeast of Gaston, which would place it within the area of Wolfe’s home on the 2700 block of Northwest Phillips Road.

Location information was also received from Fretwell’s phone in the area of Wolfe’s workplace in McMinnville, according to court documents.

Wolfe was interviewed again May 20 at the Salem Police Department. Wolfe maintained he had no contact with her or her son recently and did not know where they were.

Related: Ex-co-worker says man charged with murder in connection with missing Salem mom and son was ‘odd’ 

Detectives, however, reported, “Based on the interviews of Karissa’s family and friends, I believe the only known person who would benefit from the disappearance or criminal homicide of Karissa and William is Michael.”

A babysitter told investigators she had taken care of William on May 13 and returned him to Karissa at around 4 p.m. The babysitter said she had several conversations with Fretwell about Wolfe and Wolfe’s wife, according to court documents, and they had “threatened Karissa that they were going to take William and get custody of him.

Detectives viewed surveillance video from Cascade Steel, according to court documents, that showed Wolfe leaving the area where he works the evening of May 13, traveling in a golf cart to a carpenter shop and then walking into a tree line behind the shop that would have access to the business parking lot.

Security workers said these acts would be “outside of protocol.” Wolfe returns out of the same bushes at 2:35 a.m. May 14 carrying a white trash bag containing unknown items, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The affidavit states he is then seen leaving the main building from a different door wearing his work shirt at 2:52 a.m. He is again carrying the white trash bag.

“This would not be consistent with Michael’s above described statement he was at work his whole shift,” the affidavit states.

Cell phone information received May 21 showed, according to a probable cause affidavit:

  • Wolfe was moving south away from his place of work at around 8:55 p.m. May 13.
  • The phone is connected to a cell tower in downtown Salem at around 9 p.m.
  • At 9:42 p.m., it is still using the Salem tower.
  • By 1:38 a.m. May 14, cell tower information indicates the phone is moving north.
  • At 2:12 a.m., the phone is again using a tower near Wolfe’s place of work, which is consistent with what is seen in the surveillance video.
  • At 4:34 a.m., Wolfe’s phone is using a tower near his home.

Investigators said the information is consistent with “Michael and Karissa’s phones being in the same approximate place during this time,” according to court documents.

Berry said there is additional physical evidence that goes beyond what was listed in the probable cause affidavit that led to Wolfe's arrest.

Wolfe was first publicly identified as a person of interest in the case last week, before being called a suspect and subsequently being arrested at a doughnut shop in downtown Portland.

He was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.


May 27: ‘We’re still hopeful’: Friends of missing Salem mom, son host vigil

May 24: Ex-co-worker says man charged with murder in connection with missing Salem mom and son was ‘odd’

May 24: Police: Person of interest now charged with murder in connection with missing Salem mom, son.

Images: Search for missing Salem mother, son

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(2) comments

William R

Does Cascade Steel have really hot ovens?


That’s a gruesome thought. It sounds like he took the bag with him when he left his shift at Cascade Steel. Plus, I doubt one garbage bag could hold both mother and child. If he would have brought them onto the premises another way, seems that would have been shown on surveillance.

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