The search for Whitney Heichel, the Starbucks barista who was found dead after the arrest of a neighbor, concluded Friday night with the discovery of her body, but the family of the 21-year-old says they are grateful for the outpouring of support despite the case’s sad ending.
Whitney Heichel was reported missing last week when she failed to show up at her Starbucks job, at a location just blocks from her home in Gresham, Oregon. The search for Whitney gained national attention rapidly as her panicked family begged for her safe return, but days of waiting yielded only Heichel’s cell phone, discovered in bushes by children playing.
Heichel’s body was located on Larch Mountain, after the arrest of 24-year-old Jonathan Holt in connection with Whitney’s disappearance. Following the discovery, the family of Whitney Heichel released a statement indicating that while they were “profoundly devastated” by her death, the community’s reaction was heartening in their darkest days:
“The loving concern from ones that didn’t even know Whitney or her family has deeply touched our hearts. The kind expressions, and support from perfect strangers has confirmed to us that there is much good in people… And though, while this event in our lives is tragic, we saw the positive effects it has had on this community.”
Whitney Heichel’s family was not alone in commenting on the barista’s murder — Starbucks, her employer, posted a message to its millions of Facebook fans commemorating the young employee and commending her service, saying:
“We are deeply saddened to learn of Whitney’s death. Our thoughts and hearts are with Whitney’s family, friends, fellow store partners and the Gresham and larger Portland communities during this very sad and difficult time.”
“Whitney was well-liked by everyone she met and was heavily involved in her store and the community she served every day. Whitney, your Starbucks family will miss you greatly.”
The man accused in Whitney Heichel’s murder is due in court later today.