FRUITLAND, Idaho — While some gathered in their homes on Christmas Eve, others set out for Fruitland City Park for a candlelight vigil and moment of silence for missing 5-year-old boy Michael Vaughan.
The 30-minute event consisted of opening comments and prayers, a moment of silence for the public to light their candles, singing 'Silent Night' as a community song, a statement from Michael's family and a closing prayer.
The Christmas Eve candlelight vigil event was created on Facebook and asked for the community to show unity with the Vaughan family. Lana Westbrook coordinated the vigil and hosted the event along with Brooke Amber and the Michael Vaughan Fruitland Community Missing Child Search Facebook page.
"We will never give up hope my love," said Michael's mother, Brandi Neal. "We are here to help light your way home."
Michael was last seen at about 6:30 p.m. July 27 around SW 9th Street. He is described as 3 feet, 7 inches tall; about 50 pounds; with blond hair and blue eyes. The boy was wearing a blue Minecraft sweatshirt and dark blue briefs. He also answers to a nickname, "Monkey."
Friday night's event was titled "7:30 p.m. Christmas Eve Candlelight Vigil: Bring Monkey Home."
The Fruitland Police Dept. on Wednesday said search efforts over the last few weeks have included more ground searches in a "remote forested area" north of Weiser. Also, the total number of leads received since Michael disappeared has risen to 738.
Idaho State Police and the FBI are assisting with the investigation.
"We continue to comb through the data collected since July 27, 2021, and it is a monumental task, but we remain committed and steadfast in our efforts," the Fruitland Police Dept. said in a Facebook post. "As most of us prepare to spend a Christmas holiday gathered with family and friends, we ask you to keep those who are unable to gather in your prayers, specifically 5-year-old Michael Joseph Vaughan. There will be an empty seat at his family's table and for many of us in this community, an empty place in our hearts until Michael comes home."
A reward for information leading to his safe return has grown to $52,206, the Fruitland Police Dept. said Wednesday.
Anyone with any information is urged to contact the Fruitland Police Department at 208-642-6006, extension 0, or contact the department through their tip line at email@example.com. A poster of Michael from the Idaho Missing Persons Clearinghouse is available here.
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