The gathering included references to scriptures that might lend comfort in a time of crisis, said a congregational elder, but wasn't materially different from a regular service.
It was Saturday that emotions ran high, when the congregation mourned for Heichel at an impromptu gathering at the hall. Jehovah's Witnesses from Gresham, Portland, Sandy, and Washington met there, said Jim Vaughn, a family spokesman and one of nine elders who lead Heichel's congregation.
"Local elders shared scripture and reminded friends that God doesn't stop bad things from happening, but good can come from the bad," Vaughn said.
He noted how Gresham police worked around the clock to search for Heichel. The way her and her husband's families took food to search parties during cold and rainy days last week. The way the city mourned for the family, with 350 people attending a vigil for Heichel on Saturday. The way Gresham businesses have come forward to offer fundraisers and donations in support of the family, such as the Portland and Gresham Dutch Bros. Coffee shops donating half their sales Monday to the Heichel family.
"They didn't know her, and we've had an overwhelming response," Vaughn said.
Her husband, Clint, is devastated by his loss and did not attend the meetings, Vaughn said.
On Friday, Heichel's body was discovered on Larch Mountain in Multnomah County and a neighbor in her apartment complex, Jonathan D. Holt, 24, was arrested and accused of her murder.
Early Sunday morning Holt was transferred to jail in Clackamas County, where police believe he killed Heichel.
Holt is being held without bail on three charges of aggravated murder. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday afternoon in Clackamas County Circuit Court.
Police would not elaborate on means or motive, said Laura Bridges-Shepard, city communications director. Nor would they release the Multnomah County medical examiner's autopsy report, which was completed Saturday afternoon.
Vaughn declined to comment on accusations against Holt, who is a Jehovah's Witness and was acquainted with both the Heichels, possibly through Jehovah's Witness gatherings, investigators said. Several small congregations of around 100 people each meet at different times in the same Kingdom Hall.
The Gresham community was shaken by the four-day search for Heichel. It was a topic of discussion from beauty shops to candidate forums, with people who didn't know her lamenting the loss of a young woman who, by all accounts, was devoted to her religion and family.
Saturday at the gathering, a man who didn't know Heichel read a comforting scripture to the group. It turned out to be Whitney Heichel's favorite:
"Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? To the contrary, in all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God's love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
At that moment, Vaughn said, "There weren't too many dry eyes."