Michael Wolfe jailed; search continues for mom, son


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The man accused of murder and kidnapping in the disappearance of a Salem woman and her son is being held without bail in the Yamhill County Jail. 

Michael John Wolf was arrested Friday at Blue Star Donuts in downtown Portland

A mugshot of Michael John Wolfe, who was taken into custody on charges of aggravated murder and kidnapping, May 25, 2019. (Yamhill County Sheriff's Office)

Detectives from the Salem Police Department took the 52-year-old into custody on 2 counts of aggravated murder and 2 counts of kidnapping. 

Wolfe wasn’t booked into the Yamhill County Jail until Saturday, which suggests he was questioned extensively beforehand. His mug shot shows him wearing a so-called “suicide smock” used by authorities to prevent a prisoner from self-harm. 

Law enforcement officials said the charges do not mean Karissa Fretwell and her son William are dead; however, officers said there was probable cause for an arrest. The search for the pair is ongoing. 

“Everybody involved in this case continues to hope for a safe return for Karissa and William,”​​​​Salem Police Department Lt. Treven Upkes said.

Fretwell’s good friend Bethany Brown told KOIN 6 News she is hopeful they will be found. 

“It breaks my heart. I hope she’s OK,” Brown said. 

Brown said she knew Fretwell wouldn’t disappear voluntarily.

“She wouldn’t leave her cats, especially Barney, he had cancer and she paid a whole bunch of money to have his leg amputated. She just loved cats,” Brown said. 

Brown said Karissa met Wolfe while she was working for Jimmy Johns in McMinnville. 

“She would deliver sandwiches to him, and he would request her to bring the sandwiches,” Brown said. 

Undated photos of Karissa and Billy Fretwell. (Courtesy of Salem PD) 

Fretwell and her son were reported missing May 17 and haven’t been seen since May 13. Authorities identified Wolfe as a person of interest in the case on Thursday. 

Court records show Wolfe — who is married — is the biological father of William. 

Brown said after Fretwell gave birth to William, Wolfe tried to keep the relationship and child a secret from his wife.

“Michael helped her co-sign on the apartment and helped her pay move-in costs to get into the apartment and he had a second key made,” she said. “There were multiple occasions that he was in the apartment when she got home and she didn’t like that.”

Fretwell moved to Salem to get her own place and started working on getting child support from Wolfe about a year ago, Brown said. After having a paternity test done, child support was granted and the first payment was due soon. 

Wolfe is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in Yamhill County court.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this developing story.

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