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NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) - The case of a woman who disappeared from a Norton Shores gas station Friday night is now being investigated as an abduction.
Norton Shores authorities have been asking for the public's help in finding 25-year-old Jessica Heeringa, who vanished during her shift at the Exxon Mobil, 1196 E. Sternberg Road. The young mother was reported missing after customers noticed there was no clerk.
Norton Shores Police Chief Daniel Shaw said Heeringa helped a customer at 10:50 p.m. and a call to 911 reporting the empty gas station was made at 11:15 p.m. In that 25 minutes, Shaw said, "something very bad happened."
"Between the time that last purchase was made and the time that the customers came in and found the store empty is when Jessica was abducted," Shaw said. "We have spoken with the person who made the purchase there and cleared them of any wrong. And unfortunately, they didn't see anything that would lead them to believe there was something going on at the store that was leading to that abduction."
Heeringa's car, purse and belongings were left behind. The store's cash drawer was open, but no money was stolen, police said.
"Somebody took her. She didn't just up and disappear," Jessica's mother Shelly Heeringa said.
Police are now searching for a silver minivan, possibly a Chrysler Town & Country, that was spotted in the area around the time of the abduction. Police would like to speak to its driver, described as a heavy-set, white man between 30 and 40 years old, and having broad shoulders, and light, brown, wavy hair parted in the middle and longer on top. He may have also been wearing a bright red or orange sweatshirt.
Police said they have made a composite sketch of a suspect but they are "not confident" in releasing it yet.
Shaw said it is possible Heeringa may know her abductor. The Norton Shores Police Department has already cleared four persons of interest. Police said the Exxon owner and manager are not persons of interest.
A task force that includes the FBI has been assembled.
"She's very helpful and I think that's how he lured her out of the gas station -- that he needed help of some kind or something," Shelly Heeringa said of her daughter.
Shelly Heeringa told 24 Hour News 8 that disappearing would be completely out of character for her daughter.
"She loved her son. She would never leave her son," Shelly said. "She was a good worker. She wouldn't have left the gas station open, unattended with nobody there."
Shelly said Jessica's son is still too young to really understand what is happening, but that she is sure he wonders where his mother is right now.
Dakota Quail-Dyer, Jessica's fiance and the father of her son, told 24 Hour News 8 Saturday that he talked to her an hour before she disappeared. He said she was looking forward to coming home.
"Just hoping she's OK and she'll come home and be with me and my son. I just want her home," he said.
Jessica Heeringa is 25 years old, 5 feet 1 inch tall, and weighs 110 pounds. She has blonde, shoulder-length hair and blue eyes. She has wire-rimmed glasses but may not be wearing them. She may be wearing a blue-collared shirt that says Sternberg Exxon.
For two days, family and friends have been handing out and posting flyers with her photo on them.
"We miss her and she was very special. She's a very good person," Shelly Heeringa said. "We're going to look for her and we're not going to quit until we find her."
There are no security cameras at the gas station. Chief Shaw said not having any "visual evidence of what occurred" has made the investigation more difficult.
A source said police urged the owner of the gas station years ago to have security cameras installed, but he told 24 Hour News 8 Sunday that was not the case. He said he has cooperated with police and ordered a 24 Hour News 8 crew off gas station property.
"He only had like $3,000 worth of drive-offs on gas, so he didn't think it was worth putting in a $5,000 security system," Shelly Heeringa said. "Said he likes to hire the young, pretty girls 'cause it brings in more customers. ...I just wish he would've had security cameras or some kind of security in place. If not cameras, something."
But, she said, her daughter had a good relationship with her boss.
After Heeringa's story hit the national news Sunday morning, tips started coming in from all over the country, including New Jersey, Arkansas and Missouri, among other states.
"We've got a team of detectives and investigators on staff all day and night to track down those leads," Chief Shaw said Sunday.
But they still need more information. Anyone who can help is asked to contact Silent Observer at 231-72-CRIME (27463), 911 or the Norton Shores Police Department at 231.733.2691.
"This is their opportunity to make a difference. To save someone's life," Chief Shaw said. "If they could come forward and help us find Jessica, we can get to her and hopefully bring her back to her family."
Shaw said he "can't remember anything like this in Western Michigan,"
in his nine-year career in Norton Shores.
"Just make a phone call. Call Silent Observer. You don't have to give them your name. Just give them the information on what you know," Shelly Heeringa pleaded. "If you know something, maybe you don't think it's important, but maybe they will. Just give them a call and help us get Jessie back."
== Watch above: 24 Hour News 8 asks the owner of the gas station about why he does not have surveillance cameras, Jessica Heeringa's mother described the last time she saw her daughter, and Chief Daniel Shaw provides an update on the investigation ==
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