DALLAS — For Denton Davison, finding his then-wife Heather Mounce on a cliff side on the Oregon Coast after a four-day search wasn’t the fairytale that it was portrayed as.
Mounce, who was missing for four days in August 2017 and rescued after her husband found her clinging to a cliff near Florence, has been charged with 96 counts of identify theft, theft, and criminal mistreatment.
Her alleged victims include a local business, nonprofits, and community members.
The revelation of what would become 96 felony charges against her began the day she left.
Davison and Mounce were married on Aug. 5, 2017. On Aug. 12, the day after they returned from their honeymoon, his bosses, Mark and Liz Weisensee, of OpenRoad Transportation in Dallas, called him into work.
They had wanted him to know that they had found evidence suggesting Mounce, who was their human resources director, had been stealing money.
“It’s one of the times that things are spinning in your head so fast. You’re going over everything in a minute, or in 10 seconds,” Davison said. “We just moved and bought a home together and moved my kids down here.”
During that conversation, Davison texted Mounce, asking her to come into the office. She declined, and told him it didn’t matter because she knew she would lose her job, perhaps her kids, and marriage.
Later, Davison received another text message: “I haven’t heard from you in a couple of hours. I can’t just sit here. I’m going for drive.”
At 2 p.m. he received a text that alarmed him.
“That seemed like a goodbye message. I even showed Mark and Liz, ‘what do you think of that?’ It was probably within a minute or two her daughter called,” he said.
Mounce sent her teenaged daughter a similar message. They went to the police, reporting that Mounce was missing, possibly considering suicide, and about the suspected theft.
Her daughter used an app “Find my iPhone” to try to locate the car Mounce was driving. It was near Florence.
They checked it repeatedly in the next 30 minutes. The car wasn’t moving and was parked on the side of the highway near a cliff.
“When we saw that the car wasn’t moving, and we saw where it was, that was the immediate thought, that that was a suicide attempt,” he said.
Local police found the car with her purse and cash inside. Authorities began a search for her.
Davison joined the search the next day, looking for traces from the top of the cliff, which was covered by thick brush, and on the shore below. Searchers didn’t find her that day, or Monday or Tuesday.
When the search began on Wednesday, Davison was convinced they wouldn’t find her alive.
He retraced his steps on the beach from Sunday until he was at the exact point he was that day.
He kept hearing a noise, and eventually looked up the cliff — as he had done before — and found her waving and yelling for him.
He said it was surreal.
“You go from one reality, getting married and going on your honeymoon. The next day your life turns upside-down,” he said. “Six hours later, it turns upside-down again, and four days later it turns upside-down again.”
Davison said what he felt when finding his wife after the four-day ordeal is something he will never forget.
“Whatever I find out, if more information comes out, you can’t take away the moment of emotion I felt on the hill,” he said.
Now Davison wishes that it had been one of Mounce’s other relatives who had found her, not him.
“It’s too unbelievable of a story,” he said. “I ended up in that ‘too good to be true’ story, and it was too good to be true, because it wasn’t a fairytale ending.”
Davison said the Dallas community — his hometown before moving to Vancouver for 20 years — blessed his family with support.
“This is a small, tight-knit community, a community that cares for its residents and rallies behind people in times of need. It is full of amazing, wonderful people,” he said. “The whole town rallied behind the search effort. When she was found, we were given space as a family, but the support and love continued to come our way.”
After the rescue, Davison said he and Mounce tried to keep their marriage together. Ultimately, he decided to file for divorce in November 2017. She has since moved to Idaho.
“It was a lack of trust. Trust had been broken and it was beyond repair,” he said. “I had to make the decision that was best for me and my kids.”
Besides talking to a local reporter in Florence and issuing a statement via Facebook after Mounce was found, Davison has been quiet about the ordeal.
He didn’t want to disparage Mounce and wanted to protect his family, he said.
“I knew the truth would eventually came out. I didn’t want to be the one spreading it,” he said. “I didn’t feel that was my job. I didn’t want to hurt her, her kids or her family.”
Now he wants to tell his story in hopes of clearing up what he believes is rampant speculation.
For those who question if she was on the cliff the whole time, he said that thought didn’t occur to him during or immediately after the rescue. Mounce told him that people couldn’t see or hear her on Sunday, so she moved down the cliff on Wednesday.
She was covered in thorns from the brush on the cliff side, he said.
In the year since, Davison said he’s developed doubts about her story.
“I know that’s the No. 1 question, and I don’t have an answer for anyone,” he said.
Davison said he had no knowledge of any of Mounce’s suspected crimes until the day she disappeared.
“You have to already be suspicious to pick up on some things,” he said. “I’ve met her friends and they are good, solid people in the community. There were, I would say, no signs.”
Davison said he understands the community’s anger and the feeling of being duped now that the criminal charges Mounce is facing now are public.
“People were hurt, and friendships were fractured or destroyed. Many people’s lives were affected negatively in both big and small ways,” he said. “We are angry and have the right to be. We want to see justice served. I pray that in the coming weeks, this community will see steps taken that will allow us to begin the healing process.”