Park searched; community reacts to abduction

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park was closed temporarily Thursday afternoon, and there was a brief flurry of police and media activity there after police received a tip on a silver van spotted in the park.
Becky Vargo
May 3, 2013

Police are looking for a silver or gray van in the disappearance of 25-year-old Jessica Heeringa from the Exxon Mobil station at 1196 E. Sternberg Road in Norton Shores on April 26.

Norton Shores Police Chief Dan Shaw said the tip received Thursday also noted that gunshots were heard in the park on Saturday.

But Shaw said there is a shooting range across the street from the state park and that Saturday was also the opening day of turkey hunting season. Turkey hunting is permitted in that part of Norton Shores.

Nonetheless, Shaw said Thursday that they were treating the tip seriously. Police conducted an aerial and ground search of the 1,200-acre park on Thursday evening.

The helicopter also searched an area north of Muskegon on Thursday, based on another tip.

Shaw confirmed that the man they questioned Wednesday night had returned for more questioning on Thursday.

In the meantime, people are still picking up fliers and giving support to Heeringa's family on a steady basis, said the missing woman's grandmother, Diane Homrich, who is now acting as the family spokesperson. Even truck drivers are picking up fliers to distribute along their routes.

“I don’t know how many semis stopped and the driver got out to say, ‘I’m going this way or that way,’” Homrich said.

Victoria King and Danny Johnson of Muskegon stopped by to pick up fliers and a T-shirt. King said they didn't know the family, but wanted to help bring Jessica home.

“It’s a sad and devastating story,” King said. “She’s got a loving family, friends and a 3-year-old asking for his mommy. She needs to be brought home.”

Johnson said that he would be "freaking out" if anything like that happened to King.

“I’d probably be doing what they’re doing,” he said, pointing to the family command tent and hugging his daughter, Kayla, 3.

Nearby at the Pointes Hair Salon, owner Char Tokarczyk and stylist Jessica Bull took a minute away from helping their customers to talk about the abduction.

“I’ve worked here seven years — no problems,” Bull said. “I’m very shocked.”

The stylist said she rents space from Tokarczyk and sometimes works late.

“I will take my clients up now on walking me out,” she said. “I can honestly say I wasn’t scared before, but now I am.”

Tokarczyk said she has always cautioned Bull about working late.

“We will be taking precautions,” the salon owner said.

Tokarczyk said she couldn’t imagine what it would be like if her 24-year-old daughter or 25-year-old daughter-in-law were abducted.

“I don’t know what I would do," she said. "I’d be beside myself. ... We pray that she is found soon.”

A salon customer, Carol Westerfield of Fruitport, said it’s very upsetting to have an abduction happen in this area. But it makes her feel good that so many people are working so hard to find Heeringa.

Marit Kana, who works at an insurance agency in The Pointes shopping plaza, said she cried the first day when the family was gathered in the parking lot.

“I have kids and I would hate to not know,” she said.

 

Comments

MR. WILLIAMS

What really happened? First of all the evidence so far released to the Media on this case only proves that Jessica Heeringa is missing. Why she is missing is a question yet to be answered. There is no proof that foul play or a criminal act took place regarding her disappearance. Her purse and car keys were left at the Gas Station undisturbed as well as no money was taken from the stations cash register. There are cases where mother’s of children who by all accounts was one of the best parents and everyone they knew had sworn that the missing mother would have never abandon her children because it wasn’t in her character make up. Yet, in those cases years later the mother surfaced even though the courts had ruled her officially deceased. The mother when interviewed after her resurfacing explained she had just reached a wall with her life and felt she had to get away and on a spur of the moment decision she dropped everything she was doing and disappeared without a notice and without a trace. This is the web address of a rock solid mother of 2 just disappearing unannounced: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/20...

GHJames

This is a stupid comment. Your basic argument here is that in a few cases of a missing mother she walked away from her life willingly so the police should not waste their time investigating any missing person case until they have a body or a witness to an abduction. Logic and reason demand that the police investigate using facts and the least number of assumptions (Ockham's Razor) moving the case forward with the most likely, if not worst case, scenario. If I read a few news stories about rape victims making up their accusations I would be horrified if the police stopped investigating sexual assaults.

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