The family of a missing 5-year-old boy who vanished without a trace more than four months ago is pleading for his safe return as authorities scramble to gather clues as to his whereabouts.
In the months since the 5-year-old vanished, police have unsuccessfully scoured the surrounding neighborhoods in the small Payette County community, including searching corn fields using search dogs and drones. Dive teams were also been dispatched to search canals.
“Our ground searches are based on the highest probability that Michael may have wandered off, potentially gotten hurt, stuck in an irrigation ditch, a swimming pool, an out building, an old appliance, a junk vehicle — anywhere a 50-pound curious boy could hide himself,” Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff said during a press briefing on Nov. 18.
Authorities said they’ve also received nearly 560 tips from “literally around the globe.” The leads, however, haven’t led to any concrete developments, police said.
"Several tips have borne fruit, but they just don't go anywhere," Huff said.
No persons of interest have been identified in a possible abduction scenario either.
In October, however, authorities were seeking assistance in identifying the driver of a white Honda Pilot that was spotted in the vicinity of where Vaughn disappeared from. Law enforcement was also actively working to identify a man with dark hair, wearing a white t-shirt and black shorts seen walking nearby at the time, as well.
Authorities previously said the 5-year-old boy’s family have been “fully cooperative” with detectives.
"Please keep Michael's face, his name and his story in every one of your hearts, your eyes and your minds. It has been 115 days, 115 days — he has not been home,” Vaughn’s mother, Brandi Neal, also told reporters last month. “We need every one of you, I need you, I need your help to bring my baby home. I need you to know how much Michael is loved. I need you to know how much he is missed. Our family is broken without him."
Photo: Fruitland Police Department
A reward for more than $50,000 has been issued to help lead to new information that could shed light on the missing 5-year-old’s whereabouts.
"It’s important to remind people that children who have been missing for an extended period of time can still be found," Angeline Hartman, the director of communications for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told Oxygen.com on Wednesday. "We have seen cases where kids have been missing for years — even more than a decade — escape their circumstances safely. We encourage everyone to stay vigilant in the search for Michael. You never know when you might be the person who bring home a missing child."
In the U.S., Hartman said that 2,564 children were recovered between 2014 and 2018 after being missing for between one to five years.
The FBI, as well as the Idaho State Police, and Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, are also assisting with the ongoing investigation into Vaughn’s disappearance.
“Since July, the FBI has been actively assisting the Fruitland Police Department with the search for Michael Vaughan, deploying resources within hours of the child being reported missing,” the FBI said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com on Wednesday. “The search for Michael is a strong collaborative effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with one goal: to recover Michael and bring him home.”
Vaughn, who has blond hair and blue eyes, was last seen wearing a light blue Minecraft t-shirt, dark blue or black boxer briefs with a green stripe, and blue flip flop sandals. He's approximately 43 inches tall and weighs 50 pounds. Officials said he answers to the nickname “Monkey."
Anyone with information related to Vaughn’s disappearance is urged to contact the Fruitland Police Department at 208-642-6006 or 208-452-4421. Tips can also be submitted via email at email@example.com.