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Whitney Heichel's Cell Phone Found In Bushes: Clues Emerge As Police Search For Missing Oregon Woman (VIDEO)

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Clint Heichel gets a hug from Lorilei Ritmiller, mother of Whitney Heichel, as he breaks down after attempting to speak at a news conference on Oct. 18 in the council chambers for the city of Gresham. (AP Photo/Brent Wojahn, The Oregonian)
Clint Heichel gets a hug from Lorilei Ritmiller, mother of Whitney Heichel, as he breaks down after attempting to speak at a news conference on Oct. 18 in the council chambers for the city of Gresham. (AP Photo/Brent Wojahn, The Oregonian)

The cell phone of Whitney Heichel, the Oregon woman who disappeared under "suspicious" circumstances earlier this week, has been found by a group of children at an apartment complex a few miles from the woman's home.

According to CBS News, children playing in a field near Troutdale Terrace Apartments in Troutdale, Ore., found Heichel's phone in some bushes on Thursday. The cell phone reportedly had Heichel's photograph as the screen saver and contained text messages asking if the missing woman was "okay."

"I was pretty shocked. I mean I knew right away…I recognized the face," April Fletcher, the mother of one the children, told ABC News.

The news outlet notes the apartment complex is about four miles from Heichel's home in Gresham, Ore.

At a Friday morning news conference, Gresham Police Department spokesman Lt. Claudio Grandjean confirmed that the device had been found. He added that "no other items were found along with the phone," CBS News writes.

Heichel was reported missing on Tuesday morning by her husband, Clint, after the 21-year-old failed to show up for her morning shift at a local Starbucks.

A few hours later, Heichel's SUV was found parked in the back corner of a Walmart parking lot. "The passenger side window was busted out, the backseats were down, there was mud on her tires," the woman's husband told KPTV. He added that the tires had not been muddy the night before.

Police have called the woman's disappearance "suspicious."

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Just hours before the phone was found, Heichel's mother, Lorelei Ritmiller, "urged people in the Portland area to keep looking for her daughter, who she described as the 'sunshine' in her heart," ABC News writes.

"She's this compassionate laughing person. Her heart is as big as the sun ... This is just a great human being. This is a person you'd think no one could ever hurt," Ritmiller said.

According to an earlier report on The Huffington Post, a gas station attendant may have been one of the last people to see Heichel before she disappeared:

According to a flyer on the "Find Whitney Heichel" Facebook page, the woman's debit card was used that morning at several ATMs and three different gas stations. Clint Heichel said two of those transactions, both of which were gas purchases, occurred just eight minutes apart, one at 9:22 a.m. and another at 9:30 a.m.

One gas station attendant reported seeing the SUV with Whitney Heichel in the passenger seat and an unidentified man behind the wheel, according to the flier. The man reportedly "was acting suspicious and hurried, buying only a small amount of gas."

The apartment complex where Heichel's cell phone was found is located "between the parking lot and the gas station," CBS News reports. Police are now calling the Troutdale apartment "a key area."

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