PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Oregon man changed his plea to guilty on Friday in the kidnapping and murder of his 3-year-old child and child’s mother.
Michael Wolfe pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and second-degree murder in the 2019 murders of Karissa and Billy Fretwell.
KOIN 6 News confirmed on Thursday a change of plea was expected by the Yamhill County district attorney’s office. Wolfe has been behind bars since his May 2019 arrest in the Fretwells’ deaths and initially pleaded not guilty to numerous charges.
His plea on Friday took the death penalty off the table. Wolfe’s sentencing is slated for June 20.
Their bodies were founded in a remote wooded area about 10 miles outside of Yamhill in June 2019. Fretwell and Billy were reported missing to Salem authorities in mid-May.
Court documents showed Fretwell, 25, and Wolfe had been in a child support battle over Billy.
Fretwell’s friends told KOIN 6 News back in 2019 that Karissa and Wolfe had met while she worked at a Jimmy Johns in McMinnville and that he worked nearby at Cascade Steel. Fretwell eventually started working part-time at Cascade Steel as a security guard.
Friends told KOIN 6 Wolfe threatened Fretwell when he learned she was pregnant, and friends added he kept her and Billy a secret from his wife and grown children, who didn’t learn about the boy until was about a year old.
“I think the child support kind of topped it off for Michael. I think he – I don’t want to think that he did anything but – it’s just super weird that the time frame was like three or four weeks ago, and I think her first child support check she was supposed to receive like June 2019,” Fretwell’s friend Bethany Brown had told KOIN 6 News in 2019.
Authorities said they pinpointed Wolfe as a suspect based on his cell phone pinging towers in the region close to the timeline of when Fretwell and Billy disappeared.
On Friday, Fretwell’s best friend Desirae Lay, who became inseparable from Karissa after they met at Dallas High School growing up, told KOIN 6 News the killer’s guilty plea will bring her some peace.
“It’s a big, a huge sigh of relief,” Lay said. “It’s a weight that has been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally act like a normal human instead of carrying around this weight of them not being here.”
Lay, who said losing Fretwell and her son the way she did was unthinkable.
“It’s been rough” marking life’s celebrations without her best friend, Lay said, who noted she recently got married and was on her honeymoon when the plea change was announced.