NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) - A witness told 24 Hour News 8 he saw a silver minivan driven by a "creepy man" at the Sternberg Road Exxon Mobile two hours before police say Jessica Heeringa was abducted Friday night.
"I think it's a distinct possibility that he could have been scouting ahead of time," Christian VanAntwerpen said. He said he has told his story to the Norton Shores Police Department.
VanAntwerpen said he stopped at the Exxon around 9 p.m. Friday to get gas on his way home from his job at the nearby Firehouse Guitar. He said Heeringa was there working alone.
"One of the most incredibly friendly, helpful people you would ever meet," VanAntwerpen said. "Unfortunately, that makes her susceptible to creepy people that want to do bad things to her."
As VanAntwerpen was leaving, a silver minivan pulled up just after Heeringa went outside to do some paperwork at the pumps.
He said he heard some of the conversation between her and the man. But the man remained in his van and VanAntwerpen said he never saw his face.
"The general banter was like, 'Hey, I thought you were supposed to be inside, not out here,' Kind of joking, almost like he was a regular kind of guy that would come in there and talk with her," VanAntwerpen recalled.
He said Heeringa and the man acted as if they knew one another.
"It seemed almost like construction worker banter," said VanAntwerpen. "You hear about the old construction workers that would do catcalls and stuff like that; try to hit on the pretty ladies."
He said he doesn't recall exactly what Heeringa said in response.
"Something to the effect of, 'Yeah, I'm trying work,' or 'I'm out here doing this. I can help you inside in a minute,'" he said.
VanAntwerpen said he believes the man went inside the station as VanAntwerpen was leaving.
Heeringa disappeared two hours later.
A second witness spotted the minivan going through the parking lot of the strip mall next door, Norton Shores Police Chief Dan Shaw said. Shaw said police believe Heeringa was already in the minivan at that time.
"The van left and drove down this alleyway or roadway (in the strip mall)," Shaw said. "And as the van went by, she was able to see the driver's face."
That witness aided in the creation of the sketch of the possible suspect that was released Tuesday.
The van was later spotted headed north on Grand Haven Road by two separate surveillance cameras.
If you have any information about Heeringa's disappearance or saw anything out of the ordinary, call Silent Observer at 231-72-CRIME (27463), 911 or the Norton Shores Police Department at 231.733.2691.
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