FBI believe missing mother of eight was murdered after last call to her children

The FBI is seeking information in the case of a missing mother of eight who they believe may have been murdered after her truck was found abandoned and on fire, with her hair and blood inside.

“The FBI’s Detroit Field Office, along with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office and the Portage Department of Public Safety in Michigan, is requesting the public’s help in locating a missing person,” the FBI page for the missing mother states. “Heather Mae Kelley is a resident of the City of Portage, Michigan, and has been missing since December 10, 2022. There is evidence to suggest that she may have been the victim of a homicide.”

The 35-year-old is described as having blonde hair and brown eyes, being about 5’8’ (173cm), and weighing about 125 pounds (57kg).

She’s always wearing a silver heart necklace and has tattoos on her forearms depicting a lion, a rose, and a dream catcher, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The FBI has established a substantial search effort for Ms Kelley, who has now been missing for nearly three months.

She left her home at about 9pm on 10 December last year, calling her children about 90 minutes later at 10.30pm to say that she would return home soon, She never did.

Her truck was found the following day at North Sprinkle Road and East Michigan Avenue in Comstock Township east of Kalamazoo in the southwestern part of the state, authorities said.

Heather Kelley, a mother of eight, is missing (FBI)
Heather Kelley, a mother of eight, is missing (FBI)

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office revealed in December that her truck was burning when it was located and that her blood and hair were found inside after the fire was put out, according to WOOD.

Members of the family have said that her boyfriend is a person of interest in the investigation and that he was detained four days after Ms Kelley vanished, adding that he’s in federal custody, WWJ reported.

When Ms Kelley left her home, she told her children that she was going to see her boyfriend at a halfway house, WOOD noted.

Her boyfriend’s electric tether appeared to be deactivated on the night of her disappearance, court records state. He later left the halfway house, according to the outlet.

The boyfriend hasn’t been charged in connection to the case. He remains in jail on a federal hold that expires on 26 April. He was on federal parole and had been serving a sentence at the halfway house for a drug-related crime in 2010 which included a murder-for-hire plot, WOOD notes.

The halfway house is located two miles from where Ms Kelley’s cousin found Ms Kelley’s pickup truck on 11 December shortly after it had been set aflame. The cousin told police that she had seen a red pickup truck drive away at speed just before she arrived. DNA tests have revealed that the blood found in the car was that of Ms Kelley.

The boyfriend said in a letter to a federal judge that he took his tether off because one of Ms Kelley’s brothers had sent him death threats via text message. The brother was “even sending pictures of an AR-15 assault rifle,” according to the letter. The brother rejected that allegation when speaking to Target 8.

The boyfriend requested an early release, saying that he needed heart surgery, but the request was denied.

After getting search warrants for the boyfriend’s phone, Facebook account, and email, detectives found that the boyfriend hadn’t been truthful with investigators. He said he had last seen Ms Kelly when she dropped him off at the halfway house in the afternoon of 10 December, but phone records and GPS data from his tether show that they were at The Park Club, a private dinner club, where he worked.

His phone was turned off that night but it was later tracked to an area near where her truck was found. The tether was also shut down and wasn’t turned back on until the following morning.

Investigators say that the turned off phone was an indication of premeditation and that it “supports the theory that Heather Kelley has been the victim of a violent crime,” court records state.

The non-profit Silent Observer has offered a reward of as much as $5,000 for information leading to her being found.

The FBI, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, and the Portage police are all asking the public for help. Those with tips are asked to call the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office at 269-383-8748 or the Portage police at 269-329-4567. Information can also be shared at tips.fbi.gov.