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Michael Vaughan case update: Press conference scheduled

Fruitland Police finished processing the entire home and yard off Redwing Street and have now scheduled a press conference.

BOISE, Idaho — Fruitland Police announced that they will be holding a press conference to announce the latest information regarding the Michael Vaughan case. The conference is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 1 at 1:00 p.m. In a press release the department specified that this is not a public event and intended only for media. KTVB will be at the conference and report the information after its conclusion.

On Wednesday Fruitland Police Department Chief J. D. Huff confirmed crews finished processing the entire home off Redwing Street in Fruitland, where investigators were looking for the possible remains of 6-year-old Michael Vaughan, who went missing from his neighborhood on July 27, 2021. 

Investigators had been out at the home in Fruitland since late on the night of Nov. 11, excavating a backyard where 35-year-old Sarah Wondra was one of the occupants. Wondra was arrested Nov. 12 in connection to Vaughan's possible death and charged with failure to report a death.

Huff told KTVB search crews finished processing the entire home and yard Wednesday. Investigators stopped digging on the property Friday, Nov. 18.

Payette County prosecutors said in Wondra's Nov. 14 arraignment that she failed to notify law enforcement of the death of Vaughan "with intent to prevent discovery of the manner of death."

A Payette County magistrate judge on Monday determined Sarah Wondra is currently mentally unfit to proceed.

Wondra's attorney appeared in court via Zoom Monday for a status conference. Judge Brian D. Lee reset the conference for the morning of Friday, Dec. 23. A preliminary hearing previously set for Tuesday, Nov. 22, had already been vacated.

Online court records show Lee on Monday also issued a commitment order, pursuant to the Idaho law about determination of fitness to proceed in a criminal case. Wondra is being transferred to custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare for treatment. The commitment order indicates she was found unfit to assist in her own defense. Therefore, proceedings against Wondra are on hold.

One day before Wondra was arrested, investigators began searching the Fruitland home after receiving a lead that came from what Huff called "a very credible tip" related to the disappearance of Vaughan.

Failure to notify or delaying notification of a death is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $1,000 fine if found guilty.

Idaho does not have an "insanity defense," but under state law, "no person who, as a result of (mental illness), lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense shall be tried, convicted, sentenced or punished... so long as such incapacity endures." Competency evaluations are conducted by at least one court-appointed psychiatrist or psychologist. 

While the community waits for more updates on the search, a community Facebook group has scheduled a candlelight prayer circle for Michael and his family on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. MT in the gazebo at Fruitland Community Park. 

Organizers ask that you bring a candle as they pray for Michael, his family, law enforcement, search and rescue, and others who are close to the case. 

To learn more on the candlelight prayer circle, click here.

Michael Vaughan is still considered missing, and anyone with information that may help solve the case is encouraged to reach out. Submit tips to Crime Stoppers at 208-343-COPS (208-343-2677) or email findmichael@fruitland.org. 

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