GRESHAM, Ore. – Children playing in an apartment complex discovered a cell phone they say they are sure belongs to the 21-year-old woman who has been missing since Tuesday.
The apartment complex is about four miles from Whitney Heichel's Gresham home.
Gresham police later confirmed the phone was indeed Whitney's.
"Obviously that's a very favorable find for us," police spokesman Lt. Claudio Grandjean said at a Friday morning media briefing.
The phone is a smart phone and detectives will analyze location and other data stored in the phone. They will also try to get fingerprint or DNA evidence from the phone.
The phone was discovered by two girls in the blackberry bushes at the Troutdale Terrace Apartments. One of their families told KATU News the phone had a screensaver of Whitney on it as well as texts asking if she was OK.
Still, it may be another clue about what happened to Heichel, who left for work Tuesday morning and hasn't been seen since.
Now three days later, Heichel is still missing. On Friday, Grandjean said missing person reports come in frequently to police and those missing people are usually found in a couple of hours. Obviously, Heichel's case is an anamoly.
"There isn't a logical explanation for being gone this long," Grandjean said.
Elizabeth Spencer said she saw Heichel struggling to park her SUV the night before she disappeared.
"She just said she hadn't been feeling good and was tired," Spencer said. "She actually had asked me, she goes, 'Can you come over here for a minute?' She asked if she had bumped the car in front of her. I said, 'No. You're about two inches away from it, actually. I was like, 'Do you want me to just re-park it for you?' She said, 'Yeah,' kind of embarrassed to ask."
But Spencer said nothing seemed unusual about Heichel or her SUV.
"I got in and put my purse in the passenger seat. So I looked over that way and then re-parked her car. I obviously had to look out the window to be able to get in the spot – no, nothing weird," she said.
Hours later Heichel disappeared, and that same SUV Spencer helped park was discovered at the Wood Village Walmart with the passenger window smashed.
Investigators have declined to talk more about the condition of Heichel's SUV when it was found in the Walmart parking lot. But Heichel's husband, Clint, explained what he saw to Good Morning America.
"I noticed that the front passenger side window had been broken out," he said. "She had a little dangling bead thing from the rear view mirror that had been ripped off; the back seats were down, which was odd; there was a rubber mat and the carpet that was in the back and those were on top of the seats. So stuff had been moved."
He said he also noticed mud and grass on the tires.
Investigators were back searching at Larch Mountain on Thursday, but "didn't complete that to our satisfaction," Grandjean said. Investigators resumed searching Larch Mountain on Friday.
They also combed Dodge Park near Sandy on Wednesday.
At Friday morning's news conference, Grandjean, who said this case is continuing to be treated as a criminal investigation until otherwise indicated, went on to say that there is no person of interest investigators are focusing on. However, at this point, no one has been "totally cleared," Grandjean said. Heichel's husband Clint is not a suspect, Grandjean said.
A good sign for the investigation is that 50 new tips that came into the tipline Thursday night.
"It's been very active," Grandjean said. " ... There is no tip that is useless. We don't know it until you give it to us."
Police will hold another briefing at 4 p.m. Friday.
Anyone with information on Heichel should call the Gresham police tip line 503-618-2719.
The Heichel family has set up a website in which all proceeds will go toward the family, who "deeply appreciate all the help from the ones that do feel the need to donate," Clint Heichel wrote to KATU News.