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Idaho missing person alert bill signed into law

Gov. Brad Little signed a bill into law on March 28 that would create a different type of missing person alert for the state of Idaho.

BOISE, Idaho —

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press. 

Gov. Brad Little signed a bill into law on March 28 that would create a different type of missing person alert for the state of Idaho. The legislation was sparked by the disappearance of 5-year-old Michael Vaughan of Fruitland, who went missing from his home in July 2021. 

Vaughan’s mother, Brandi Neal, said she began to tear up upon hearing the news that Little signed the bill. 

“It’s absolutely amazing. I wish we would’ve had this when Michael went missing. It helps give a platform to what we want to do. Amber Alert reform in the state of Idaho needs to happen,” Neal said. 

The bill that is now law, SB 1378, will create an Endangered Missing Person Alert (EMPA) to notify those in Idaho and surrounding states about a missing person. The alert would encompass all missing endangered adults and children, and would enable state police to communicate with surrounding states with the same alert system to notify them as well. 

The alert would also help missing Indigenous populations, those with developmental disabilities, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, domestic violence survivors and victims, and human trafficking survivors and victims. 

Neal has been an outspoken voice to change Idaho’s Amber Alert criteria after Vaughan was never issued one, largely because he did not meet all of the criteria. 

“This is huge to not only Michael, but to every other family if anything else happens to one of them,” she said. 

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, and Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth. 

Lee told the Senate on the floor in March that Vaughan’s disappearance “shook the community” and state. 

Vaughan, known to his family as “monkey,” disappeared on July 27, 2021. Neal said in December that Michael’s father, Tyler Vaughan, went to check on the boy’s sister in her room while Michael was playing Nintendo in the family living room. When Tyler Vaughan came back, Neal said, Michael was gone. His scent was traced by police dogs to the end of the street, where it stopped abruptly. 

“The No. 1 goal is getting Michael home,” Neal said. 

Going forward, Neal wants to reform Amber Alert criteria so missing children like Vaughan may have a better chance of being found sooner than later. 

In March, the Fruitland Police Department penned a Facebook post regarding SB 1378. 

“We are happy to hear that SB 1378, the Endangered and Missing Person Alert passed both houses and feel that if signed into law will be a much needed tool moving forward for all Idaho Law Enforcement," the post read. "Mass exposure in these types of events will bring a higher probability of a successful recovery." 

In the post, police said they believe they know who may be the owner of the white Honda Pilot, the vehicle that was spotted near Vaughan’s home during the time he disappeared. 

Neal said that she knows the police are looking at many leads, and all of the leads take time to develop. 

“The data looks promising. I believe they are going to find who took Michael,” Neal said. “I thank the governor for signing the bill. We need to take care of our families. If anybody has any information, please come forward. Even if you think it’s insignificant. We need that information. We need to get faster answers to who took Michael.” 

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press. Read more at IdahoPress.com

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