Bodies of missing Salem mother, her son found in Yamhill Co.: 'They were dead by May 16'

Photo of Karissa Fretwell and her son, Billy from Salem Police.

Deputies said they found the bodies of Karissa Fretwell and her 3-year-old son Billy nearly a month after they were reported as missing from Salem.

Their bodies were found Saturday in a remote area about 10 miles west of the city of Yamhill.

Deputies say Karissa died from a single gunshot to the head. The medical examiner hasn't determined Billy's cause or manner of death. Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said he is "confident" that Billy's death will be ruled a homicide.

Billy's biological father, Michael Wolfe, had previously been arrested and charged with their murders. Berry had said before the bodies were found that they had a "mountain of circumstantial evidence" against Wolfe, including surveillance footage and cellphone data. But now they have "direct evidence" of the deaths.

“We know that they were kidnapped on the night of (May) 13th, into the early morning hours of the 14th," Berry said in a media conference on Monday. "I know that they were dead by the 16th (of May)."

Berry said there was no other person who had as much to gain from Fretwell's death. He said they don't know what his motive is, but have their own theories.

WATCH the conference below:

According to the district attorney, detectives developed information that led them to a place off of Turner Creek Road -- a place that Wolfe was familiar with. Berry said Wolfe frequently recreated in the area.

In previous searches, crews had been as close as 800 yards from the location where the bodies were found.

The bodies were found after a roughly two-hour search. Berry said they were found together, and they were partially covered with debris.

During the conference, Berry confirmed that investigators recovered a firearm in the case. They have not confirmed whether it was used in the murder of Karissa.

Between 40 and 50 people were involved in the search on Saturday, according to investigators.

Since finding both bodies, Berry told KATU News he cannot say if there will be additional charges against Wolfe, or anyone else.

"[We] will continue to see what the investigation yields," said Berry.

When asked if the discovery of both bodies "cements" their case against Wolfe, Berry said, "I'm not going to say it cements the case. Obviously, he has the right to put forward a defense. I don't know what that defense will be yet. I don't know if it's, 'I didn't do it," or something else. I'm not going to speculate on that."

Wolfe will be in court again at the end of the week.


Karissa Fretwell and her son Billy were last seen on May 13. Court documents reveal that night, surveillance video shows Wolfe leaving his workplace in McMinnville during a scheduled shift by walking into a treeline.

Around 2:30 a.m. the next morning (May 14) detectives say Wolfe was seen returning to work through the same treeline while carrying a white trash bag.

Also on May 14, cell phone records show a text message was sent from Karissa's phone near Wolfe's Gaston home.

Detectives say evidence from cell phone towers would be consistent with Michael and Karissa’s phones being in the same approximate place during this time.

On May 17, family members reported Karissa and Billy as missing.

The next day, May 18 detectives say they talked with Michael at his home. He allegedly told them he last made contact with Karissa in mid-April during a child support hearing. Wolfe stated the hearing “did not go well." Detectives have told us in the past that the only person to benefit from the disappearance or deaths of Karissa and Bill is Michael Wolfe.

On Thursday, May 23, the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office said they were searching for Wolfe for questioning, and named him a person of interest in the Fretwell’s disappearance.

He was arrested on Friday (May 24) at a Blue Star Doughnuts location in Portland. He was booked into jail the following day on murder charges in the death of Karissa and Billy.

Wolfe was arraigned on Tuesday, May 28. The Yamhill County District Attorney released information in the investigation.

On Saturday, June 15, the bodies of the missing mother and son were found.

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