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Oregon Man Gets Life in Prison for Murdering His 3-Year-Old Son and the Boy’s Mother After Being Ordered to Pay Child Support


A 55-year-old Oregon man will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars for killing his 3-year-old biological son and the boy’s 25-year-old mother three years ago.

A state judge on Wednesday ordered Michael John Wolfe to serve a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole for the murders of Karissa Alyn Fretwell and young William “Billy” Fretwell, Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry confirmed to Law&Crime.

Wolfe last month admitted to the double murder, pleading guilty to one count of aggravated murder in Billy’s death and one count of murder in the second degree constituting domestic violence in Karissa’s death.

According to Berry, Oregon Circuit Court Judge Eric J. Bergstrom sentenced Wolfe to life with the possibility for parole in 30 years for the aggravated murder charge and life with the possibility for parole in 25 years for the second-degree murder charge. The sentences will run concurrently.

In exchange for pleading guilty, prosecutors took the death penalty off of the table and dismissed multiple counts of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. Trial was slated to begin next June.

Several of the victims’ family members attended Wednesday’s proceeding and addressed the court after years of reportedly eschewing media attention so as to not jeopardize the state’s case against Wolfe.

Karissa’s sister, Katrina Kent, reportedly spoke about the impact that the murders of her sister and nephew have had on her whole family, including her son, who was 6 years old at the time of their deaths. She specifically highlighted a school assignment in which her son was tasked with writing about his greatest wish.

“He wrote that his one wish was to have his aunt and cousin back because he misses them and doesn’t know why someone could be so mean,” Kent said, according to a report from Portland NBC affiliate KGW. “He also asked me this morning before I came to court to make sure that you know that he cries all the time because you took the people he loved away from him.”

She continued, looking at Wolfe and addressing him directly.

“I hope every time you close your eyes you see their faces and it haunts you the way your selfish decisions haunt us,” she reportedly said, adding, “You are a monster.”

Karissa’s father, Kirk Bales, reportedly referred to Wolfe as “one of the lowest forms on earth.”

“We are here today because an individual didn’t want to be responsible for a child he brought into this world,” he reportedly said. “Instead, he decided to play God and Mr. William and his mother, Karissa, are no longer here.”

Karissa first met Wolfe when she was working as a delivery driver at Jimmy John’s. The older man reportedly “actively pursued” her while also concealing the fact that he was already married. After getting her a new job as a part-time security guard at Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, where Wolfe worked at the time, Karissa became pregnant with Wolfe’s child. He was reportedly unhappy about the pregnancy and ended the relationship. She only learned about Wolfe being married afterward.

“She never knew he was married until after a couple weeks of her being pregnant,” Fretwell’s friend Megan Harper told KATU. “Then he offered to pay for an abortion.”

Karissa, who ended up working part-time jobs and attending Western Oregon University, sought child support from Wolfe. A judge issued a court order against him on May 10, 2019, requiring Wolfe to pay Karissa $904 per month. Just three days later, the mother and son disappeared from their apartment.

Their bodies were discovered on June 15 on a heavily-wooded piece of property owned by the timber company Weyerhaeuser. Wolf reportedly had a permit to firewood on the property and knew the area well, according to the Statesman. Karissa’s cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head while Billy’s cause of death remained uncertain.

Wolfe denied at first that he had seen Karissa since a court hearing on April 15, 2019, but surveillance footage showed he was near Karissa’s apartment; cell records placed her phone near his home. Wolfe was the only person to gain from Karissa and Billy’s deaths or disappearances, Salem Police Detective Anthony VanDekoppel wrote in an affidavit.

[Image of Karissa and Billy via Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office; image of Wolfe via Salem Police Department]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.