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Nearly one year since Michael Vaughan disappeared, Fruitland Police give small update

Law enforcement said they are back investigating in the Fruitland area after receiving 1,000 leads, and have released a photo of a man they'd like to speak with.

FRUITLAND, Idaho — Michael Joseph Vaughan, who went missing July 27, 2021 from his neighborhood in Fruitland, still cannot be found -- but law enforcement continues the investigation with a lead that has put them back in the area.

Fruitland Police Department led a press conference on Friday with other joint law enforcement agencies where they reinforced that the investigation into Michael's disappearance is criminal, there is a probability of an abduction and that they continue to investigate around 1,000 leads and tips they have received. They released few updates, but did bring forth some information that was unknown previously.

Michael, who is nicknamed "Monkey," was last seen at around 6:30 p.m. in the area of Southwest 9th Street in Fruitland. At the time, he was described as 3 feet, 7 inches tall, weighing about 50 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. Michael's 6th birthday was June 24, 2022.

Fruitland Police Chief J.D Huff said in the conference that the case has been narrowed down, but there are many circumstances that are not concrete.

"People like to deal in absolutes." Huff said. "And there's nothing about this case that is an absolute."

Police have gathered a tremendous amount of data, he said, serving 27 search warrants and have served triple that number in consensual searches. So far, the most recent credible lead they have has brought them back to the area in Fruitland where Michael went missing.

"It takes an intense effort, and a lot of work to document all of the leads as they're coming in. And at the conclusion of this investigation, I'm hopeful we'll find the I'm hopefully we'll find the answers. It's important that our case is organized and very strong," Huff said.

Huff said they now believe that Michael disappeared in a smaller window of time than originally thought, around 6:40 p.m. to 7 p.m. 6:40 p.m. was when Tyler Vaughan, Michael's father, said he was in a back bedroom tending to his daughter and ordering pizza on the phone. It is unclear why police believe he disappeared within a smaller time-frame.

Additionally, there are many persons of interest in the case, but no suspects.

However, the police department has not yet identified a man who was seen walking around the park near the Vaughan's house, and seek information on his identity. 

"The man seen walking through the area of the splash pad of Crestview Park, leading up to the time of Michael's disappearance, he's not come forward, and he has not been identified. So the man is described as a white male adult late 20s, early 30s. He was seen wearing black shorts, a white t-shirt with cut off sleeves, dark colored shoes and a hat. So I need to make it perfectly clear that he is not a suspect, but we need to talk to him so we can determine his whereabouts to see if he witnessed anything that would be helpful in this investigation," Huff said.

Fruitland PD released the photo of the man on their Facebook page.

Credit: Fruitland Police Department

Huff told the media that there have also been people searched and interviewed that have not been cooperative with police.

"I will tell you properties, vehicles, electronic devices, you know, everything you think we will be serving search warrants on... More than likely, we've served search warrants on," Huff said.

Huff told KTVB the Vaughan family has not been cleared but is completely cooperating with law enforcement. Police have looked into strangers, but have also looked into people close with Michael and his family as people of interest.

Police have yet 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. Huff said they believe the person is a resident of the area and they would like to speak with them for more information.

Credit: Fruitland Police Department

Due to the public interest in the case reaching throughout the nation, it has led to people throwing out extreme theories that Huff said makes the case more convoluted and difficult to investigate. In a phone call with KTVB, Huff elaborated that there has been issues of harassment, people involving themselves in the case and the creation of muddier waters that make it harder to follow credible leads.

Regardless, Huff said he does not want to discourage tips, and all credible tips should be reported to law enforcement.

"I believe that, you know, in the midst of that, there's going to be that tip, a tidbit of information that breaks this case, and helps us bring him home," Huff said.

The department also announced a new partnership with a program called Homeward Bound, which would place missing children's pictures on traveling trucks and semi-trailers to spread awareness of their disappearances and hopefully bring more answers to families of the missing.

Authorities continue to encourage people to share this poster about Michael hosted by the Idaho Missing Persons Clearinghouse.

As of late June, the reward for Michael's safe return stood at more than $52,000.

Fruitland Police are working with the FBI and Idaho State Police as well as search and rescue organizations.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Fruitland Police Department at 208-642-6006, extension 0, or email the department's tip line at findmichael@fruitland.org.

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