FRUITLAND, Idaho — It's been nearly four months since 5-year-old Michael Joseph Vaughan disappeared from his family's neighborhood in Fruitland, where police say the search for the boy remains their top priority.
Thursday afternoon, Michael's mother, Brandi Neal joined Fruitland Police Chief J.D. Huff for a media briefing. Neal made a statement on behalf of the family.
"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. We need every one of you, I need you, I need your help to bring my baby home," Neal said. "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."
A reward established for information leading to Michael's safe return has increased to $50,100, and is available until March 31, 2022.
Between the day Michael was reported missing, July 27, and Thursday, Nov. 18, Huff said 557 tips have been received from "literally around the globe," and each was assigned to investigators for follow-up.
"Several tips have borne fruit, but they just don't go anywhere," Huff said in Thursday's press briefing.
Michael was last seen at about 6:30 p.m. July 27 around SW 9th Street. A missing-endangered alert went out less than two hours later.
Huff said that crews searched close to 1,000 acres this week, in just the latest of multiple searches in and around the neighborhood where Vaughan was last seen. Search areas included the front and back yards of "nearly all the homes on Southwest 9th," as well as farmland near SW 9th, and another large plot of land between Nevada Avenue and U.S. Highway 95.
"Why would we continue to search areas that we have searched multiple times before? Well, because we haven't found Michael yet and conditions change," Huff said. "So further, you can imagine going home every night as a law enforcement officer wondering, 'Did we miss something during that search?'"
Idaho State Police, the FBI, Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, and numerous other agencies from out of state as well as within Idaho have been working on the case.
"The search for Michael will not stop until he's found, and the search remains very active," Huff said.
Huff also said investigators have not ruled anything out, and a lack of success with the search "increases the possibility that Michael was abducted."
Fruitland Police are still asking 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. They also are looking to identify a man with dark hair, wearing a white T-shirt and black shorts seen walking in that area around the same time.
Huff said they're not considered suspects at this time.
"They may have seen something. We just don't know what that is until we talk to 'em," Huff said.
Michael is about 3 feet, 7 inches tall, weighs about 50 pounds, has blond hair and blue eyes, and was last seen wearing a blue Minecraft T-shirt and dark blue briefs. Michael also answers to the nickname "Monkey."
Anyone with any information is urged to contact the Fruitland Police Department at 208-642-6006, extension 0 or contact the department through their tipline at firstname.lastname@example.org. A poster from the Idaho Missing Persons Clearinghouse is available here.
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