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Man gets life for killing 3-year-old son, boy’s mom over child support

SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon man who admitted to kidnapping and murdering his toddler son and the boy’s mother over court-ordered child support has been sentenced to life in prison.

Michael John Wolfe was sentenced Wednesday to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years for the 2019 aggravated murder of 3-year-old William “Billy” Fretwell. Wolfe, 55, of Gaston, was also sentenced to life with the possibility of parole in 25 years for the second-degree murder of Billy’s mother, Karissa Alyn Fretwell, 25, of Salem.

The pair vanished May 13, 2019, just three days after Wolfe was ordered by a judge to pay Fretwell $904 per month in child support. The married security guard fathered the boy during an affair with Fretwell.

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Wolfe was charged with murder in May 2019, while mother and son remained missing. Their bodies were found June 15, 2019, on a densely wooded property west of Yamhill where Wolfe was permitted to cut firewood.

Fretwell had been shot in the head. Billy’s cause of death remains undetermined.

Wolfe pleaded guilty to two murder charges last month in a move that allowed him to avoid the death penalty, the Associated Press reported. Several other murder and kidnapping charges were dismissed.

The courtroom was adorned Wednesday with dozens of photos of Fretwell and Billy as Fretwell’s mother, Nyla Bales, addressed Wolfe in court, according to the Salem Statesman Journal. The admitted killer should be forced to look at a photo of her daughter and grandson every day for the rest of his life, she said.

“She loved that little boy so much,” Bales said. “She was working full time and going to college full time trying to make a life for them.”

Wolfe had never taken part in Billy’s life. According to the Statesman Journal, he met the boy once — the day he murdered him.

Fretwell’s sister, Katrina Kent, spoke about the struggle of losing her sister and nephew, particularly when it comes to her own children. She described how her son, who was 6 at the time of the killings, wrote in his school journal of his greatest wish.

“He wrote that his one wish was to have his aunt and cousin back because he misses them and doesn’t know why someone could be so mean,” Kent said in court. “He also asked me this morning before I came to court to make sure that you know that he cries all the time because you took the people he loved away from him.”

>> Related story: Oregon man ordered to pay child support accused of kidnapping, killing 3-year-old son, boy’s mother

Fretwell and Billy were last seen alive the afternoon of May 13, 2019, authorities said. They were reported missing four days later after a concerned family member found their unit at the Quintero Apartments unlocked.

A probable cause affidavit said the television was on inside the apartment and Fretwell’s eyeglasses and bank card were still there. Both of her vehicles were parked outside the apartment and she had missed three shifts at work, the court document stated.

Court records indicated that Wolfe and Fretwell were embroiled in a legal battle over Billy, who Wolfe fathered during an affair with the young woman.

Bethany Brown, a friend of Fretwell’s, told KOIN 6 News in 2019 that Fretwell met Wolfe, a security guard, through her work at Jimmy John’s. She would deliver sandwiches to Wolfe, who asked her out, Brown said.

Wolfe admitted to investigators he had a sexual relationship with Fretwell about four years before she and her son were slain. According to Brown, Fretwell took Wolfe to court in April 2019 seeking child support.

Records showed that Wolfe was ordered at that time to begin paying about $900 a month in child support to Fretwell.

The documents also showed that Billy’s babysitter told investigators Fretwell confided to her over several months that Wolfe and his wife had threatened to seek custody of the boy.

Wolfe told detectives he had no contact with Fretwell or their son following their April 15 court hearing, which he said “did not go well,” and that he had not been to Salem in more than a year, the affidavit said. Cellphone records showed, however, that Fretwell’s phone sent a text message around 2:27 p.m. May 14 using the same cell tower that serves Wolfe’s rural home near Gaston, about 40 miles north of Salem.

Read the probable cause affidavit for Wolfe’s arrest below.

KOIN 6 News reported that searchers spent days searching Wolfe’s property, as well as an area of Hopewell. Dive teams were also used to search a reservoir in Yamhill County for signs of Fretwell or her son.

Investigators obtained data that placed Fretwell’s cellphone near Cascade Steel in McMinnville, where Wolfe told police he was working his regular 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. shift the night Fretwell and her son were last seen alive.

The affidavit indicated Cascade Steel surveillance footage from May 13 shows Wolfe leaving the part of the steel mill where he worked around 8:45 p.m. on a golf cart. The footage showed him walking through a line of trees and bushes behind the business’ carpenter shop and toward the parking lot.

“Detective Gamble was told by security at the location this would be outside of protocol,” the affidavit stated.

The affidavit said cellphone records show Wolfe’s cellphone traveling south, away from the business, around 8:55 that night. At about 9 p.m., the phone was shown to be using the same downtown Salem cell tower that served Fretwell’s apartment.

Wolfe’s cellphone remained in Salem for nearly five hours before the data showed him moving north toward his workplace, according to the affidavit.

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He was next seen on the Cascade Steel surveillance footage walking back through the tree line around 2:35 a.m., the document said. As he drove the golf cart back toward his area of work, he carried a white trash bag containing unknown items.

“At approximately 2:52 a.m. on May 14, 2019, Michael can be seen leaving the main building from a different door wearing his work shirt,” the affidavit said. “He does not have his backpack and he is again carrying the white trash bag.

“This would not be consistent with Michael’s above-described statement he was at work his whole shift.”

Wolfe told investigators he worked at the steel mill until about 6 a.m., but cellphone records showed his cellphone using a tower near his home shortly after 4:30 a.m., the affidavit stated. The data indicated that Wolfe’s and Fretwell’s cellphones were in the same areas overnight on May 13 and early May 14.

Prosecutors detailed other evidence during the sentencing hearing, including drugs found on Wolfe’s property capable of sedating a human being, the Statesman Journal reported. Evidence also showed that Wolfe visited the dump and a hardware store the day after Fretwell and their son vanished.

At the hardware store, he bought rope and tarps, the newspaper reported.

The bodies of Fretwell and Billy were found wrapped up in the tarps Wolfe had purchased, authorities said.

Kent wept as she talked about her passionate and hardworking sister, who hoped to become a teacher and was working toward that goal. Billy had a contagious smile that she misses seeing on their frequent FaceTime calls, she said.

“You and your selfish ways put a dollar amount on two lives,” she told Wolfe, who she described as a “monster.”

Bales ended her victim impact statement with her own hope for Wolfe’s future.

“Live long and miserable,” she told him.

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