‘We haven’t stopped’: Search continues for Fruitland 5-year-old who’s been missing a year
Catherine Odom, Idaho Statesman
FRUITLAND (Idaho Statesman) – It’s been almost a year since 5-year-old Michael Vaughan — or “Monkey,” as his family called him — disappeared from his home in Fruitland, kicking off a search involving local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
At a press conference on Friday, Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff said police are still working “tirelessly” to find out what happened to the missing boy.
“We haven’t stopped,” Huff said. “Every day we have unfinished business, and I’ll tell you that every day is an anniversary of the disappearance of Michael Vaughn for us.”
Michael was last seen at 6:30 p.m. on July 27, 2021, at his home on Southwest 9th Street in Fruitland. Police have since refined the timeline of events and believe Michael’s disappearance occurred between 6:40 and 7 p.m.
Huff said that when police were notified at 7:21 p.m., they searched the area extensively. Those efforts lasted all night, and the next morning more support arrived from state agencies and the FBI.
Since Michael’s disappearance, Huff said police have followed over a thousand leads on the case, including on pedestrians and vehicles seen in the area around the time Michael went missing.
Law enforcement positively identified the owner of a blue Dodge Avenger and a man jogging, and both were vetted and cleared, Huff said. Police are still trying to verify the owner of a white Honda Pilot seen in the area and the identity of a man walking in nearby Crestview Park.
“He is not a suspect, but we need to talk to him to determine his whereabouts to see if he witnessed anything that would be helpful in this investigation,” Huff said. He posted a photo of the man on the Fruitland Police Department Facebook page on Friday after the press conference.
The police department is limited in which details it can release because it’s still an active criminal investigation, Huff said, but he encouraged anyone with information about Michael’s whereabouts to come forward. The reward for information leading to Michael’s safe return stands at nearly $53,000.
The Homeward Bound Program seeks to raise awareness of missing children’s cases by posting their photos and information on semitrailers traveling throughout the country. Huff said Michael’s photo will be displayed on trucks through this program starting at the end of August.
This program was started in 2005 by Washington state trooper Renee Padgett.
“This will expand the exposure of Michael’s case on the interstates, highways and roads of our country, which will bring new leads and potentially help us bring Michael home,” Huff said.
Individuals with information about Michael’s case should email firstname.lastname@example.org, contact their local police if they are out of state or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at (208) 343-COPS.
“I would ask that you please reach out to us,” Huff said. “No tidbit of information is too benign or too obscure.”