Petitioning for help

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:28 PM

An online petition has surpassed 3,300 signatures in support of the family’s quest to get the Michigan State Police or FBI to on the investigation.

“At the six-month candlelight vigil, they said they were done waiting and it was time to move on to the next step,” said Carrie Mitchell, a Norton Shores woman who started the Find Jessica Heeringa Facebook page and now a change.com petition page.

Heeringa was abducted April 26 from the Exxon gas station at 1196 E. Sternberg Road. She worked at the store and was prepped to close it for the night, police said.

A customer called police after he visited the station that night and couldn’t find any employees.

Despite many tips, Norton Shores Police haven’t located the 26-year-old woman.

“We are still conducting investigative tasks regarding this case on a daily basis,” Norton Shores Police Chief Dan Shaw said. “We are still receiving calls/emails with information daily and weekly; however, most do not contain information directly connected to Jessica’s abduction on April 26, 2013.”

Early in the investigation, police released video of a silver mini van that was observed in the area the night Heeringa vanished — possibly the same vehicle a witness saw behind the Exxon station.

Police also released a suspect sketch and have conducted numerous interviews.

“I still believe we will bring Jessica home and solve this case,” Shaw said. “Based on the information we have collected, I am convinced there are individuals who have direct knowledge of Jessica’s location and the identity of her abductor(s); however, for reasons unknown, are refusing to come forward.”

Jessica’s grandmother, Diane Homrich, said she was extremely frustrated and discouraged at the lack of progress in finding her granddaughter.

Homrich said while they appreciate what the Norton Shores Police Department has done, she noted that they are a small department and it is time for an agency with better resources to take over.

Homrich and Mitchell said they’ve talked to people who said they supplied tips to police but were never contacted.

The Norton Shores department has worked with the State Police since start of the investigation.

“We have had access to all of their resources, including numerous investigators, intelligence analysts, technical services, forensic laboratory, behavioral science, (and) aviation support,” he said. “We recognized immediately that we could not have conducted an investigation of this magnitude without their assistance.”

The police department has also consulted with the FBI as recently as last week, Shaw said. The FBI doesn’t have jurisdiction unless Heeringa was taken out of state.

“If we eventually obtain proof she has been taken across state lines, then jurisdiction will switch to the FBI and we will assist,” Shaw said.

In the meantime, Heeringa’s mother, Shelly Heeringa, is conducting her own searches.

“Shelly was working three days a week. The other two days she was going on Google Earth and looking up run-down houses you can’t see from the road,” Homrich said.

To read more of this story, see today's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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