NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) - As tips continue to come in, police have released a composite sketch of a possible suspect in the abduction of Jessica Heeringa.
The sketch was made by a Michigan State Police artist who worked with the only person currently known to have gotten a glimpse of a man sitting in a gray minivan -- possibly a Chrysler Town and County -- near the Exxon Mobil gas station from which Heeringa disappeared April 26.
"We have one witness who placed that vehicle there and saw the driver. That's what we based that description on so far," said Norton Shores Police Chief Dan Shaw.
The driver of the minivan is 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.
The minivan was caught on surveillance video headed north on Grand Haven Road, passing the Old Homestead Tavern, which is about a mile away from the Exxon from which Heeringa disappeared.
Shaw said another investigator obtained more footage of the minivan further north on Grand Haven Road.
He said earlier Tuesday that police are working to obtain two more surveillance tapes from businesses, but is having technical problems in getting them.
"It's our only lead at this point, so yes, we do think it's a good lead. It does lend credibility to the witness account of the van driving north on Grand Haven Road at that time," said Shaw.
Tips connected to that sketch started coming in almost immediately, Shaw said.
Police also checked the sketch against the descriptions of four suspects in a January credit card fraud case in which Heeringa is a witness, but Chief Shaw said it did not match. In that case, four Hispanic males bought lottery tickets with fraudulent credit cards and tried to cash the tickets at the Sternberg Exxon Mobil, but failed because the tickets had already been flagged by the lottery commission.
Tuesday morning, Chief Shaw told 24 Hour News 8 that his department had brought in officers to staff the phones overnight to take tip calls in the case.
"We've sat officers inside our building to take walk-in tips as well as phone call tips and also the Silent Observer lines are also being staffed offsite. here. We've been getting a lot of information and we really appreciate," said Shaw.
Since Monday night, Shaw said Tuesday afternoon, more than 100 new tips have come in from as far as Oklahoma.
"There are about two inches of tip sheets since I left the office last night, so we are going to work hard on those today," Shaw said.
Shaw also said that no matter how small the tip or if if came from outside of the state, it would be investigated. Police also interviewed coworkers and people who know Heeringa.
Heeringa, 25, vanished Friday night between 10:50 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. from the Exxon Mobil gas station on Sternberg Road.
Police said it took them 36 hours to classify her disappearance as an abduction instead of a missing persons case , because they had to rule out that Heeringa didn't just walk away from the gas station willingly.
As of Tuesday morning, Heeringa had been missing for about 80 hours. The FBI, Michigan State Police, the Muskegon County Sheriff's Department, the Muskegon Police Department and the Norton Shores Police Department were all involved in the investigation.
Heeringa's family was near the gas station all day Tuesday, handing out flyers.
"All day, the same nightmare," said grandmother Diane Homrich. "You fall into bed at night, you think you're not going to sleep, then you pass out. And all of a sudden the alarm goes off and you get up. And of course today it was pouring rain and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, that's just how I feel inside.'"
Heeringa is 5' 1'' and about 110 pounds. She has blonde, shoulder-length hair and blue eyes. She has wire-rimmed glasses but may not be wearing them. She may also be wearing a blue collared shirt that says Sternberg Exxon.
If you have any information about Heeringa's disappearance, call Silent Observer at 231-72-CRIME (27463), 911 or the Norton Shores Police Department at 231.733.2691.
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