Bodies of Oregon mother, 3-year-old son discovered on land accused murderer visited before

Virginia Barreda
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Bodies of Oregon mother, 3-year-old son discovered on land accused murderer visited before

Officials from Yamhill County and Salem Police discovered the bodies 10 miles west of the City of Yamhill.

SALEM, Ore. – The bodies of an Oregon mother and her 3-year-old son were discovered in "heavily wooded" land that the man arrested in connection with their deaths was known to have visited before.

Karissa and William "Billy" Fretwell were discovered Saturday.

Accused murderer Michael Wolfe, William's biological father, had been on the land before for "recreational activities," Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said Monday. 

Yamhill County Sherriff Tim Svenson goes over a map where the bodies of Karissa Fretwell and William Fretwell were found in McMinnville on June 17, 2019. Their bodies were found on Saturday.

Between 40 and 50 searchers were looking for the 25-year-old mother and her 3-year-old son. The same area – land owned by Seattle-based timber company Weyerhaeuser about 10 miles west of Yamhill, Oregon – had been searched more than a week ago. At one point searchers were within 800 yards of the bodies but did not find  them, Berry said. 

Searchers returned to the area Saturday and found Karissa and William within two hours. 

Berry did not explain what led them back to the area, only that there was more information gathered over time.

"It was really good detective work," he said. "Putting pieces together, going through to begin narrowing the area that they needed to look."

Suspect charged: Oregon man charged with aggravated murder in disappearance of mother and her 3-year-old son

The bodies were found together, partially hidden under debris. An autopsy confirmed Sunday that the bodies were the mother and son.

The pair were kidnapped on the night of May 13, into May 14, and were dead by May 16, Berry said. He did not confirm the location of death. 

Karissa's cause of death was determined to be from a single gunshot wound to the head. A firearm has been recovered, Berry said, but it hadn't been determined if it was the murder weapon. The weapon was not found with the bodies. 

Flowers are placed on Karissa Fretwell's SUV outside her apartment in west Salem on June 14, 2019.

Berry has not confirmed the manner of death for William but said the DA's office has asked for the results to be rushed. 

Berry reiterated there is physical evidence linking Wolfe to the murders. Authorities have executed about 20 search warrants in the investigation. 

"There really was no other person who had, as we could tell, anything to gain from her death," he said. 

However, authorities are still looking for additional suspects.  

Karissa Alyn Fretwell, 25 of Salem, and her three-year-old son, William (Billy) Fretwell, have not been seen or heard from since since May 13.

The DA's office has "working theories" on the motive, but none have been confirmed, Berry said. 

"This was really tough on investigators," he said. "They've been working relentlessly to find these two. It's a very different prosecution where we actually have the bodies."

Wolfe was arrested May 24 and indicted by a grand jury on kidnapping and aggravated murder charges. His arraignment on indictment is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. on June 20, but could be pushed back to June 21 because of scheduling conflicts.

Follow Virginia Barreda on Twitter at @vbarreda2. 

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Bodies of Oregon mother, 3-year-old son discovered on land accused murderer visited before