‘Person of interest’ wanted in missing Salem mom, son

Missing Persons

GASTON, Ore. (KOIN) — A person of interest is wanted in connection with the disappearance of a young mother and her 3-year-old son who haven’t been seen since May 13.

Michael John Wolfe, 52, is wanted for questioning in the disappearance of Karissa Fretwell and her son Billy. The 25-year-old woman and her son were reported missing May 17.

Wolfe, 52, is 6-feet-2, weighs more than 200 pounds and has thinning brown hair with hazel eyes.

Late Thursday afternoon, Salem police identified Wolfe as a wanted person of interest in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the Salem Police Department Tips Hotline at 503.588.8477.

Property in Gaston

Law enforcement agencies converged on 2 rural properties in Yamhill County earlier Thursday — one in Gaston, the other in Hopewell — to look for the young mother and her little boy. At the Gaston property, the FBI brought some of its search equipment at the scene.

KOIN 6 News discovered a connection between the owner of the property in Gaston and Karissa and Billy Fretwell.

Yamhill County property records show the Phillips Road property belongs to Michael Wolfe and his wife.

Court records obtained by KOIN 6 News show Karissa Fretwell took a Michael Wolfe — who lives at that address — to court to request he pay child support for her son, Billy. 

Those court records also show a DNA test proved Michael Wolfe is Billy’s biological father. A court-ordered paternity test said a Michael Wolfe at that same address is the father of Billy Fretwell.

Neighbors told KOIN 6 News detectives have been at the property for days. On this day, detectives were seen entering the home in Gaston which also has at least 2 other outbuildings — a newer garage and an older barn.

Most of the lots in this area are about 10 acres in size, neighbors told KOIN 6 News. 

Wolfe and his wife lived at the Gaston property, but authorities have not said whether she was here when they first arrived to investigate.

“I would’ve never guessed. I met him a couple of weeks ago,” said Phyllis Hayes. “He was quiet, nice, just a neighbor saying hi. Had a dog.”

Another neighbor, Randy Ruggles, said it’s “just odd. You see it on the news all the time of somewhere else or a different place, and the next thing you know it’s right next door.”

It’s not clear how long the Gaston property will remain an active scene.

Michael John Wolfe, a person of interest in the disappearance of Karissa Fretwell and her son Billy, seen in undated photos released by the Salem Police Department, May 23, 2019

Property in Hopewell

At a 2 p.m. press conference in Hopewell near the spot of one of the searches, Salem Police Lt. Treven Upkes said the searches began Thursday after information gathered during the investigation led them to these properties.

Upkes said he could not comment on if there was any custody issue involved, but did say Karissa — who attended Chemetka Community College — and Billy lived together in Salem.

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

Officials said 25 members of the Yamhill County Search and Rescue team continue combing through a quarter-mile’s worth of field in what’s called a hand search — a slow and methodical work where searchers form a grid and walk the field.

It’s not clear at this time what the connection is between Wolfe and the field in Hopewell.

“We are still looking for Karissa and William. We want to find them, we want to make sure they are OK, so we are going to keep searching until we find them, find more evidence where they’re at,” Lt. Upkes said late Thursday afternoon. “We are going to be out here as long as we need to be until we exhausted all leads. We really want the public’s help in finding Mr. Wolfe. We want to know where he’s at, we want to have him in custody and be able to talk to him about what’s going on, where Karissa and William are, want to make sure we get some answers for them and for the family.”

Earlier investigation

Detectives were at Karissa Fretwell’s apartment on Monday in Northwest Salem but police didn’t release many details about this case.

A white Grand Am registered to Karissa remained parked on the street in front of the apartment. A child’s car seat is in the back. A green Mercury Mountaineer was parked in front of it and on the passenger seat is a college financial aid application that appears to be signed by Karissa.

May 23, 2019 Press conference on search for Karissa and Billy Fretwell

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