Witness Said He May Have Seen The Person Who Abducted Clerk, Helped Create Sketch

Posted at 11:59 PM, May 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-01 23:59:41-04

NORTON SHORES, Mich.- Christian Vanantwerpen says he’s known Jessica Heeringa for years.

Vanantwerpen works at a music store just down the road from the Exxon on Sternberg Road in Norton Shores.

Two hours before Jessica Heeringa was reported missing from work on Friday, Vanantwerpen stopped by as he normally does to buy gas.

“I said hi to her, ‘How are you doing?’” said Vanantwerpen.

He said the conversation was kept brief and casual as she went about changing the receipt paper at the pumps.

“This van pulls up and said, ‘Hey, what you doing here?’ It was obviously annoying because she was trying to get her job done,” he said.

It was a silver van, like the one police have been searching for.  Vanantwerpen said the driver never got out of the van but continued to talk with Heeringa.

“It just seemed like he was trying a little harder than most guys that would be casual with her,” he said.

Vanantwerpen said it was hard to tell if Heeringa knew the man in the van or not.

“It could have been her best friend, it could have been someone she’s never met before.  She’s always had that friendly atmosphere,” said Vanantwerpen.  “But the way the guy approached it, it almost seemed like he was trying to get her attention.”

He said he didn’t even think about the interaction until police came to talk with him the next day.

“A sketch artist came in that day and even then, in the back of my mind, I hadn’t thought about it.  It was just kind of a weird thing and then they mentioned there was a silver minivan in question,” he said.

Now, like so many others in the community, Vanantwerpen can’t help but wonder if this all could have been prevented or solved quickly with the help of working cameras at the business, which up until Friday, he thought existed at the Exxon station.

“There is a lot on the line, when you hire somebody and you leave them alone at night and I definitely think there should be security measures in place,” he said.