Michael Wolfe charged with murder of Salem mom, son

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SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Michael John Wolfe — the biological father of a 3-year-old boy missing from Salem along with his mother — is in police custody on 2 counts of aggravated murder and 2 counts of kidnapping, according to the Salem Police Department. 

Officers revealed at a Friday press conference that Wolfe was arrested at Blue Star Donuts in Portland earlier in the day by Salem PD detectives. He will be booked into the Yamhill County jail. 

Formal charges will be determined by the Yamhill County District Attorney’s Office. 

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

Officers said the charges do not mean Karissa Fretwell and her son William are dead; however, officers said there was probable cause for an arrest. The search for the pair is ongoing. 

“Everybody involved in this case continues to hope for a safe return for Karissa and William,”​​​​Salem Police Department Lt. Treven Upkes said.

Fretwell and her son were reported missing May 17 and haven’t been seen since May 13. Authorities identified Wolfe, 52, as a person of interest in the case on Thursday. 

Who is Michael Wolfe?

Court records show Wolfe — who is married — is the biological father of Billy. Bethany Brown, one of Fretwell’s friends, said Fretwell met Wolfe while she was working at Jimmy Johns and he was working as a security guard. Brown said Fretwell would deliver sandwiches to Wolfe and he started asking her out. After that, Fretwell got a security job at the same steel plant as Wolfe. 

According to Brown, the relationship between Fretwell and Wolfe wasn’t a stable one and Fretwell later moved to Salem for a different security job. That’s when Fretwell started asking Wolfe for regular child support. 

“I think the child support kind of topped it off for Michael,” Brown said. “I think he — I don’t want to think he did anything, but it’s just super weird that it was the same time frame, it was like 3 to 4 weeks ago and I think her first child support check she was supposed to receive June 2019 — next month.” 

Brown is trying to stay positive and hopeful that Karissa and Billy are still alive. 

“It breaks my heart. I hope she’s OK,” Brown said. “We were always friends. Always able to just hang out and be ourselves around each other. I miss her a whole lot.”

Brown said Billy is a “happy-go-lucky kid” who loves to play and be a goofball.

Investigators searched Wolfe’s home in Gaston for days and a separate area in Hopewell — more than 30 miles away — in an effort to find the mom and son.

Neighbors on Webfoot Road in Hopewell told KOIN 6 News they aren’t sure why search teams are in the area. The farm fields and ponds that are being searched are located on private property and neighbors don’t think there is a link between the property owners and Wolfe. 

On Friday, a dive team from Clackamas County was called to Stephens Reservoir in Yamhill County to continue the search. 

Wolfe took a polygraph test on Monday and was released, according to one of Wolfe’s family members. 

At Friday’s press conference, Lt. Upkes said Wolfe’s wife is not missing or in any way endangered.   

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