FRUITLAND, Idaho — The Fruitland Police Department (FPD) posted an update on the investigation into the disappearance of Michael Vaughan on Thursday, the five-year-old boy who went missing nearly eight months ago.
Michael was last seen around 6:30 p.m. on July 27 near SW 9th Street. He is described as 3 feet, 7 inches tall; about 50 pounds; with blond hair and blue eyes. The Fruitland boy was wearing a blue Minecraft sweatshirt and black boxer briefs. He also answers to a nickname, "Monkey."
The reward for Michael's safe return has grown to $52,860, FPD wrote Thursday. The department also said the fund is in an account with the City of Fruitland and is reactivated until March 31, 2022.
In December of 2021, Fruitland Police asked for help to identify the driver of a white Honda Pilot seen leaving the area of SW 8th Street at around 6:47 p.m. on July 27.
On Thursday, FPD said the vehicle has not been confirmed as identified, but the department said they "feel strongly that we know who it belongs to." Fruitland Police continues to seek information on the Honda Pilot, according to its Facebook update.
"We are working through newly obtained data from that time frame and are hopeful that will produce new leads," FPD's update said. "This is an exhaustive, labor-intensive task. The search for Michael has taken on several phases and after multiple ground searches in and around the area and across the State of Idaho, as we have said, there is a high probability of an abduction."
FPD said it has received nearly 850 leads on Michael's disappearance, but almost all of them have been cleared.
Idaho State Police and the FBI are assisting with the investigation.
"Although we have been working the potential criminal abduction aspect since the time Michael went missing, it became our primary focus several months ago. Due to the fact that this is a criminal investigation we are limited in the information that can be shared," FPD said. "At this time we have no intention of coordinating another ground search as the entire area has been searched multiple times by local police agencies, professional search and rescue units, community volunteers, helicopters, drones, boats, divers, professional K9 units. These areas have been walked step by careful step and if a credible lead sends us back to that area or to a forest, a field, or anywhere, we will go."
A proposed bill, motivated by the missing Fruitland boy's case, would create an Endangered Missing Person Alert (EMPA) to notify people in Idaho and nearby states about a missing person. The legislation has passed both the Idaho House and Senate and heads to Gov. Brad Little's desk for signing.
Senate Bill 1378 would create a centralized communication system for other alerts, however, AMBER Alerts would continue to operate on their own.
An AMBER Alert never went out for Michael, who disappeared from his home in Fruitland nearly eight months ago, and it drew many questions and criticism from the community members- including Michael's parents.
Fruitland Police said if the legislation is signed into law, it will provide a "much needed tool moving forward for all Idaho Law Enforcement." FPD also said, "mass exposure in these types of events will bring a higher probability of a successful recovery."
Anyone with any information is urged to contact the department through their tip line at email@example.com or to Crime Stoppers, 343COPS.com. A poster of Michael from the Idaho Missing Persons Clearinghouse is available here.
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