FOX 17 EXCLUSIVE: Jessica Heeringa Case File and Crime Scene Photos Unveiled

NORTON SHORES, Mich. (April 23, 2014) – As the one-year anniversary of the abduction of Jessica Heeringa approaches, FOX 17 revisited the case and obtained an exclusive timeline of the days surrounding the young mother’s disappearance.

Information from the Norton Shores Police Department reveals Jessica’s boyfriend had a silver van, and so did a customer she spoke with earlier in the day.

We’ve also learned more about investigator’s key witnesses.  Police say one was the gas station manager, who was watching the store closely that night, because she thought Jessica was stealing.

heeringa belongings web gfx (2)On April 26, 2013, sometime between 10:55 p.m. and 11:10 p.m., Heeringa, 26, was abducted from the Exxon store, 1196 E. Sternberg Road in Norton Shores.

The subsequent investigation involved a large task force comprised of 15 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, plus 14 separate specialized units (aviation, behavioral science, technical services, intelligence analysis, etc.).

At its peak, there were 75 people working on the investigation. In all, investigators have devoted over 12,000 staff hours and conducted approximately 1,400 follow-up investigations based on tips and other information received.

A total of 33 search warrants and a minimum of 20 consensual searches have been executed. The searches were primarily conducted to recover date from cell phones, computers, and social media. And there were several searches of residential properties for other physical evidence. The investigation included a minimum of 12 ground searches and two underwater searches.

Here is an amended and expanded timeline that we have constructed based on the investigation to date:

April 26, 2013

2:44 pm: JESSICA purchased groceries at Aldi, 2715 Henry Street.

4:35 pm: JESSICA begins her shift at the Exxon store. JESSICA was aware the store did not have video cameras, as she had advised customers of this and the fact she was working alone. She apparently not concerned about the lack of cameras. It was not uncommon for her to prop open the rear door and turn off the store’s rear security light so she could smoke cigarettes behind the store or allow friends to enter via the rear door.

7:30 – 8:15 pm: A man identified as JESSICA’s reported boyfriend arrived at the Exxon station in a silver full size van. The two apparently had a discussion regarding their relationship. A customer told investigators that JESSICA appeared to be upset after the conversation with the man.

During that time, Jessica also had a fiancé, Dakotah Quail-Dyer.

7:40 – 8:50 pm: A female friend entered the store through the front door to visit JESSICA. Nothing suspicious was noticed at that time. Both the friend and a male customer observed a bluish silver van pull up to JESSICA while she was changing the receipt paper in one of the pumps. It appeared that the male driver and JESSICA had a friendly conversation.

10:55 pm: A female customer entered the store and purchased a lighter. She told investigators that JESSICA was alone in the store and did not appear to be nervous or distressed. The customer did not see anyone in the store or in the parking lot.

11:00 pm (approx.): An Exxon manager and her husband were riding their motorcycles eastbound on Sternberg Road when she saw a silver minivan slowly enter the north drive of the Exxon station from the service drive of the Points Mall. The van drove behind the Exxon station and did a U-turn. Its headlights went out as it pulled behind the store facing west. The manager suspected JESSICA may be in the process of stealing from Exxon, so she turned around on Harvey Street to return to the store. The manager and her husband drove to the Points Mall west of the Exxon station and parked in the lot so they could see the north and west sides of the Exxon station. There were no other vehicles in the lot except for JESSICA’s. The manager saw a figure standing at the rear of the van and noticed the van’s rear hatch was open. The figure shut the rear hatch and quickly opened it again. It appeared as though the figure was adjusting something in the rear of the van, and then closed the hatch again. The manager noted that the figure’s head was just above the roof of the van. The figure then walked to the driver’s door, got into the van, and began driving westbound on the service drive.

The manager made the following observations:

  • The store’s rear security light was not on.
  • The store’s rear door did not open at any time.
  • She never saw a struggle or heard anyone yell for help.
  • She did not see JESSICA outside of the store.

As the van drove closer to their location in the parking lot, the manager and her husband started their motorcycles and pulled up to the service drive. As the van passed, she looked at the driver, a male subject wearing a red or orange sweatshirt. Her husband stated that he did not see the subject well, but did see that he had “crazy” or wavy hair. Neither of them saw JESSICA or anyone else in the van. The manager and her husband pulled onto the service drive and followed the van until it stopped at Grand Haven Road. The manager’s husband stated that he was positive the vehicle was a silver Chrysler Town and Country minivan, as it was the same type a relative owned. He clearly remembered the Town and Country logo on the rear hatch door. Neither obtained the license plate number, as they had no reason to believe a crime had occurred.

(Note: This vehicle was located and was in Traverse City, Mich., at the time of the abduction.)

The van turned northbound on Grand Haven Road while the manager and her husband turned southbound on Grand Haven Road and went home.

11:02 pm: Surveillance video from inside of a closed store in the Points Mall captured a silver minivan turning northbound onto Grand Haven Road.

11:03 pm: Surveillance video from the Homestead Tavern captured a silver minivan driving northbound on Grand Haven Road.

11:05 pm: Surveillance video from the Coin Zone captured a silver minivan driving northbound on Grand Haven Road.

11:10 pm (approx.): A male customer arrived at the gas station, pulled up to the pump, and attempted to purchase gasoline. He was unable to do so, as the pump would not activate. He entered the store, believing that the clerk (JESSICA) may have been in the back room and not aware of his presence at the pump. He was unable to locate JESSICA. Upon exiting the store, he spoke with a female customer and called 911.

11:15 PM: Patrol units are dispatched to the store regarding a suspicious situation.

heeringa belongings pic1 (2)11:25 PM: The first officer arrives and begins investigation.

  • Officers searched the store but did not locate JESSICA. Officers located her purse and jacket in the back room. The purse contained $420 in cash.
  • heeringa gas station pic2 (2)Officers noted a cash drawer on top of the safe in the back room. They found the back door closed and latched, and there was a trash can in front of the door, as if JESSICA was preparing to empty the trash.
  • Officers noted that nothing inside the store indicated a struggle. There was nothing that appeared to be disturbed.
  • Officers exited the rear door and noted that the door did not have a handle on the outside.
  • Officers located items of possible evidence outside the rear door, including what appeared to be a 2″ x 3″ blood stain on the concrete. (The blood was later determined by DNA analysis to be from JESSICA.)
  • Officers photographed the interior and exterior of the store and evidence items prior to collection.
  • Officers collected a sample of the possible blood stain and packaged the other evidence items.

11.38 PM: The Exxon station owner was contacted regarding the open store. He in turn contacted the dayshift manager to respond, as she lives closer to the store.

11:50 PM: The dayshift manager arrives at the Exxon station and provides officers with her observations of the silver minivan and its driver. The manager advised that the cash drawer was “counted down” for the next shift, indicating JESSICA was preparing the close the store. While talking to officers, the manager observed JESSICA’s reported boyfriend drive past the store in a work vehicle. He was contacted, asked to come to the Exxon station, and was questioned by officers.

12:38 AM: K9 team requested to search area. A search of the area north and east of the store was conducted with no results.

The Norton Shores Police Department says they’ve assembled a dozen persons of interest in the past year, eight of which they are no longer focusing on.  But there are three or four persons of interest they’re watching and gathering information on, working to get a probable cause.

All persons of interest have been interviewed.

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  • Marie

    One thing that doesn't make sense to me is, if the manager and her boyfriend thought something was off enough with the van to follow it, why didn't they get the plate number? Even if they didn't get all of it, some of the number could have helped.

  • wheres the truth

    Wow this is very revealing…wish it was told earlier!! husband of coworker knew it was town n country by the bak hatch logo…but cant remeber a plate of a van u follwed for a small distance..cmon now..insult our intelligence a lil more..and how the manager thought jessica was stealing and was trying to catch her ..u cant tell me in 2013 that theres no cell phone footage of this going down!! Again insulting peoples intelligence! !! And hows theres now 3 surv vid showing van..only two has ever been known publically..this jus pisses me off!!

  • John Peel

    The Gas Station Manager and her husband are either idiots or they are involved in the crime. The female manager stated that she suspected Jessica to be involved with theft from the store and that's why they turned around and watched the minivan go to the rear of the store. How could they sit there and watch what happened and not wonder why the minivan driver opened and closed the hatch of the vehicle at the rear of the store at approximately 11PM? It's not like those types of stores sell anything that would warrant placing it in the rear of the vehicle. The manager and her husband then followed the vehicle to Grand Haven Rd and didn't write down the license plate. How could they suspect Jessica of stealing from the store and then not write down the license plate? How could they not then go to the store and make sure everything was in order?

    • John Peel

      Well maybe a case of beer but if they suspected store theft then they should have verified to see if any transactions had taken place. What about an in store ATM machine? If there was one then wouldn't the ATM machine have a surveillance camera in it?

      • wheres the truth

        Yes atm was right seen in idk if they only turn on when someones card goes in or if its non stop

  • Stoptraffikorg

    It is natural for people to speculate. However that is not enough to help Jessica. You can help by sharing this story and actively donating your time to inform others about kidnapping victims. This could have been your mom or child. We need to take a look at the whole picture and fight those organizations that are involved in rape and kidnapping. This is a travesty. A crime against humanity. Nicole Spence.

  • BigRed

    This whole thing is fishy, there has been so many crazy diffrent details out like was she skimming off the top, that’s a lot of money to just have in ur purse and why would the manager follow a van but not write the license plate down nor go to the station to check things out exp if they suspected her of stealing. And I heard something about her having an ex trying to get back with her while she has a fiancé? Not sure how much water that one holds though. Anyways praying for the family the only fact is it’s sad her kids no longer have a mother.

    • guest

      she had that much money in her purse because she had just gotten paid that day …the ex was never an EX he was a "WANNA BE" and Jess didn't want that kind of relationship with him, he also was the witness's/Jess's co-worker's brother. think about that for a moment.

    • 74NovaLover

      If you have some time, read through some previous news articles and the comments from persons very familiar and close to this story.. The ex rented an apartment in hopes Jessica would move in with him and she didn't do that. And…the ex just so happens to be the store manager on the motorcycles brother I believe. And a family member of the ex and store manager owns a silver mini van which they are stating pretty much was located in the Traverse City area. Was it there really?…dunno!

  • char

    IDK but a day or so before this all happened I was outside starting my car for work about 545-600 a.m……I saw something in my neighbors yard (neighbor lives in Chicago so no one was home) anyway I dint know at first what I was looking at was a person. I stood there looking at it and then realized it was a person and he/she was getting closer. The one thing that stood out was the hair…..shorter on bottom and kind of bushy wavy on top but longer on top……it all happened so fast…..there is an easement that separates my property from my neighbors which is a gravel drive. by the time the person got to the drive I was in my car with the doors locked….there was no way I was able to get back in my house. My son and his wife were sleeping and my sons friend was sleeping on the couch…..when I exited my house to start my car I left the front door opened but had shut the screen door. anyway by the time I got in my car and locked the doors I laid on the horn…..I was so scared and was almost in tears…..finally what seemed like forever but realistically could not have been more then a minute my sons friend came to the door…..whoever the person was must have ran when I started blowing the horn……the description was the same as the description of the man who took this young lady. I reported it to the police but was never contacted…..I would even take a lie detector test. I even made a post about it on my Facebook wall before this young woman was abducted with the description and everything.

  • Bob

    I assure you, that manager and her boyfriend gave police a false story to cover their tracks. That story makes zero sense and everybody knows it, if they thought something was fishy, they would've pulled in to see what was going on. Also, the owner seems very hostile and defensive to the media, he's involved in same. way too.
    I'll bet a million dollars that picture based on their statements is a throw off and that van had nothing to do with it.
    I bet they weren't even riding motorcycles, Jessica was probably in the trunk of one of their cars.

  • kenr

    I am so disgusted the way this investigation is going . I told my wife from day one , that they used the drawing of a man that I think was a diversion or at least wrong or misleading._ Seems like the cheif of police is over his head with a traffic ticket ………………..let alone a kidknapping. Maybe I am alone with this feeling but he seems to know nothing

  • guest

    where did the writer of this article get their facts from? as stated in the 2nd paragraph the man with the silver van was NOT Jessica's boyfriend, he wanted to be and Jess turned him away ….. he was also the witness's brother and the witness was Jess's co-worker … not hard to realize what actually took place that night. And she wasn't watching to see if Jess was sealing IF she was she would have gotten a license plate number after seeing it behind the station shutting its door as she said she didn't see what was put in it.Why would you sit there all night watching and then when see something put inside not try to find out what or at least get a plate number? and her family has the same van hmmmm.

  • tracyd112

    Why dont they either Have the manager and her Boyfriend take polygraphs or put them under hypnosis and see if they can come up with a plate number. Also the ex boyfriend that was there in the same type of van it was his sister that gave the description if I read right awhile back. Also the ex they say was fishing and they know by the phone signal ? why dont they go to where he was supposed to be fishing and look around as a person could plot phone calls to any spot if they wanted to get away with something as what about taking the fishing stuff and phone and leaving it there then doing whatever was done then calling the left phone so the signal was picked up at the fishing spot. Just saying anything is better then nothing and with technology who knows anything these days but the family and especially the little boy deserve closer.

  • me

    The fuel pump supposedly didn’t work she was changing receit where is the one she changed
    I think she disappeared on her own terms