Whitney Heichel's Jehovah's Witnesses Link Deepens Mystery of Her Murder

Jonathan Holt

Now that the body of Whitney Heichel has been found and a suspect arrested, lots of new details are emerging at rapid-fire pace. One in particular is sure to titillate: Whitney Heichel was apparently a Jehovah's Witness, and so was her accused killer, 24-year-old neighbor Jonathan Holt.

Thoughts like lightning through the brain: Was this a religiously motivated crime? A love affair gone wrong? Police have not given any indication of either so far, but based on what we do know, this wasn't completely random. There had to be some sort of relationship going between Heichel and Holt that went seriously, fatally wrong.


Holt, who was charged with aggravated murder, is due to be arraigned today. Here's what we know so far: They both knew each other and each were married (to other people). They lived in the same apartment building in Oregon and attended the same Kingdom Hall -- the equivalent of a "church" or "synagogue" for Jehovah's Witnesses. Heichel's husband helped Holt start his motorcycle a few weeks ago, and the Holts took care of the Heichels' pets when they went away.

All sounds pretty normal neighborly. Except Holt may have been shirking the responsbilities of his faith since he's been labeled an "irregular" member, meaning he's been blowing off "meetings" or services, or hasn't been meeting his quota for door-to-door preaching. What this means, if anything, is yet to be seen.

One thing is certain: Jehovah's Witnesses fascinate non-members as much as they annoy with those uninvited solicitations and "Awake" pamphlets. It's the same for any religion with super-specific or literal beliefs. As far as mainstream opinions go, Jehovah's (which is God's human name) Witnesses are not too far behind the Scientologists on the "literal" scale.

For instance, they believe that only 144,000 Christians will go to heaven to be alongside God and Jesus. They believe it's only a matter of time before Armageddon destroys us all, so their mission is to get as many converts as possible to be prepared for this end of days.

They don't celebrate birthdays, Christmas, Easter or other holidays because of their pagan roots. The morals of a Jehovah's Witness are very much like those of conservative Christians (they consider themselves Christian), wholly opposing homosexuality, same sex marriage, abortion and so on. They don't give blood because they believe the Bible prohibits humans from "ingesting blood." And they keep pretty much separate from people who aren't members of their community, which explains why Holt and Heichel lived so close to each other and might have had some type of relationship, just friends or otherwise.

A witness says he spotted Heichel sitting in her SUV at a gas station while a man who was acting rushed and nervous paid for gas, making it seem that Heichel was with Holt voluntarily, at least for a short time. Perhaps they had been planning to run away and Heichel changed her mind?

Jehovah's Witnesses and people of any other strict religious faith have the same temptations and failings of people with no religious faith at all, so in all likelihood there's a much deeper plot to this story. Something was going on and it's probably only a matter of time before police find out what it is and share it with the rest of us.

What is your theory behind the murder of Whitney Heichel?

Image via Multnomah County Sheriff

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