TribLIVE

| USWorld

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Acquaintances of Mich. gas station clerk ruled out in disappearance

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Monday, April 29, 2013, 8:54 p.m.
 

DETROIT — Several friends and acquaintances of a petite 25-year-old gas station clerk who went missing while working the night shift have been ruled out in her disappearance, which western Michigan investigators are treating as an abduction, the local police chief said on Monday.

Police have frustratingly little evidence as they search for Jessica Heeringa, who disappeared Friday night shortly before the young mother was set to close an Exxon Mobil gas station in Norton Shores. The station didn't have a security camera, and there were no signs of a struggle or robbery, though police have released a description of a vehicle and a man seen in the area.

Norton Shores police Chief Daniel Shaw said relatives, friends and other people associated with Heeringa have been interviewed, and that investigators are “no longer really concerned with their activities from that night.”

“We're moving on, trying to find other people,” Shaw said.

A man trying to buy gas called police after finding the gas station open but no employees around.

“There's nobody here,” Craig Harpster, 54, told a 911 operator in a recorded conversation authorities released. “I hollered, ‘Hey,' walked around the building. ... It just seems strange.”

Investigators later found Herringa's purse and other personal belongings in the station, and the cash register untouched. Police described Herringa as 5-foot-1 and about 110 pounds.

Police are searching for a gray minivan and its driver, who is described as a white man, age 30 to 40, about 6 feet tall, with light brown wavy hair. The description is from witnesses who saw the van parked near the station and driving away.

“There's no sign of a struggle, no sign of anything inside the store being disturbed,” Shaw said.

“The cash drawer was sitting out, and no money was missing. Her purse was in the store with 400-some dollars in it. It's just odd how that occurred.”

Shaw said nearly two dozen law enforcement officials are following leads. The police chief described the city, home to about 24,000 people on the shores of Lake Michigan, as “quite safe” with a low rate of violent crime.

“The family believes that Jessica more than likely left to help (someone) in some way,” Shaw said. “Their belief is that someone that she's either acquainted with or someone she was trying to help lured her out.”

Heeringa's mother, Shelly Heeringa, told local media that she repeatedly told her daughter she worried about her working late by herself.

“She said, ‘Mom, don't worry. I can handle anybody,'” she said.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Food industry players fighting proposed dietary guidelines drop millions on lobbyists
  2. 2 women advance to final phase of Army Ranger training
  3. U.S., Hong Kong researchers develop computer model to examine spread of influenza
  4. Pressure mounts for Biden to join 2016 White House race
  5. Construction of giant bridges sparks curiosity, high demand for public tours
  6. Bee vaccination study gives insight, could aid food production
  7. State Department accuses top Clinton aide of violations
  8. 4 dead, 65 sickened in Bronx by Legionella
  9. Marines finally ready to roll out controversial fighter jet
  10. Obama’s nuclear deal lobbying sways Democrats
  11. ‘Fast, Furious’ pistol was sold to gunman in foiled Texas terrorist attack