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Woman arrested in connection to Michael Vaughan case

Sarah Wondra, the occupant of the home being searched in Fruitland, was charged with failure to report a death.

FRUITLAND, Idaho — Fruitland Police Chief J.D. Huff has confirmed to KTVB that a woman has been arrested in connection to the disappearance of Michael Vaughan.

Huff says Sarah Wondra, 35, is one of the occupants of the home that investigators have been searching since Friday night. 

Wondra was arrested and booked into the Payette County Jail over the weekend on a charge of failure to report a death.

"Our investigation determined Sarah Wondra may have had knowledge of Michael's death and failed to report it," Huff said. "We do not believe she is the only person that has knowledge of this and we will be seeking out those people who could possibly be connected."

Huff previously said a credible lead brought them to the home on Redwing Street in Fruitland, four minutes from Michael's home. The "credible lead" Huff said, came from another occupant inside the house.

According to Idaho court records, the felony charge that Wondra faces says the person being charged is accused of not reporting a death to authorities "with the intent to prevent discovery of the manner of death."

Wondra was arraigned in court Monday afternoon. Judge Brian Lee set her bond at $500,000 and is requiring she be electronically monitored while she awaits her next hearing.

The state initially asked for a $1,000,000 bond to be set, saying she is a danger to the community and cited a previous firearms charge that Wondra was already on pretrial release for, however, the defense asked for a reduction that the judge granted.

Wondra is scheduled to appear in court for her next hearing on Nov. 21 at 10 a.m. MST., and the following day at 9 a.m. on Nov. 22. The state asked the judge to seal the probable cause affidavit in the meantime, because of concern over the "impact it would have on the investigation.” 

Judge Lee granted the request and sealed the affidavit, saying “there are risks to harm of persons should that information be released.”

Court records show Judge Lee also ordered a competency evaluation and mental health exam for Wondra under Idaho statute 18-211 or 18-212 on Monday afternoon.

Credit: KTVB

To be clear, police have not said publicly that they have located Michael or his remains, as of Monday evening.

The search is continuing Tuesday in the backyard of a house in Fruitland for possible remains of now 6-year-old Michael Vaughan, who went missing from his neighborhood in July of 2021.

Crews have dug up most of the backyard and placed top layers of dirt in dumpsters. Fruitland Police Chief J.D Huff says that their intent is to dig three or four feet deep, and that they will not stop until the entire backyard is excavated.

A back hoe is being used to dig up the top soil, and Huff believes it will in no way contaminate evidence if there is any. Huff said there are multiple layers of dirt to scrape away. 

"During the course of the investigation we received information the remains of Michael Vaughan might be found (behind the house) ... as a result, we obtained a search warrant. We have not found anything yet, but we will continue to excavate in hopes of finding his remains." Chief Huff told KTVB at the scene on Saturday.

He said the couple that lives in the home do not own it, and to his knowledge, have no connection to the Vaughan family.

Two K-9 dogs were also brought in. There are no updates on whether the dogs have alerted on anything.

Crews in the search involve Idaho State Police, Fruitland Police, Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, Fruitland Public Works and the Fruitland Fire Department.

At a press conference in the summer, Huff previously said a lead had placed investigators back in the Fruitland area to look for Michael Vaughan.

Michael, who is nicknamed "Monkey," was last seen at around 6:30 p.m. on July 27, 2021, in the area of Southwest 9th Street in Fruitland. At the time, he was 5 years old and 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.

In a previous news conference on July 22, Fruitland Police confirmed preliminary evidence that suggests Michael's disappearance is criminal, possibly an abduction. Already, the department has fielded more than 1,500 leads and tips that have come in from the public.

A family spokesperson said the family thanks the community for their support and requests privacy at this time.

2:15 p.m.: Wondra says, “I understand what they’ve said. It’s not correct.” 

2:18 p.m.: State says Wondra is already on pretrial release for firearm charges. “This shows she is a danger to the community…” “there are serious implications in her being aware of his whereabouts…” State asks for $1 million bond 

2:20 p.m.: Defense asks for electronic monitoring with a lower bond. Judge sets bond at $500,000. 

2:22 p.m.: “This could jeopardize future proceedings considering the public nature of the case at this time” defense says, on the seal of court docs.  Judge seals it. 

2:23 p.m.: “There are risks to harm of persons should that information be released” judge says on the affidavit. 

Video of the entire hearing is posted here (tap this link or view in window below):

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