FRUITLAND, Idaho — After more than four months of searches and sharing his face and name, the question still remains: Where is five-year-old Michael Vaughan?
"It's surprising to me this case hasn't gotten more national attention," said Angeline Hartmann, the director of communications for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
NCMEC has been following Michael's case out of Fruitland since he went missing on July 27. In the early stages of the search, NCMEC told KTVB they had Team Adam deployed on the ground to help provide technical assistance and national resources in search efforts.
In 2020, NCMEC was able to resolve more than 27,349 missing person cases. More than 1,100 of those were abductions.
In a news conference on Nov. 19, Fruitland Police Chief J.D. Huff said investigators have not ruled anything out, and a lack of success with the search "increases the possibility that Michael was abducted."
Even with a higher likelihood Michael has been abducted and still missing four months later, NCMEC wants to tell the Fruitland community and others involved to not give up hope.
"We always want to remind people that it's important to stay vigilant in these types of cases because more time goes on the less and less attention a case like this gets," Hartmann said.
A big part of what the NCMEC does is make sure missing children's stories are not forgotten. Hartmann said they are able to go on national television programs, like the Dan Abrams show, share images and details on social media, and more to share Michael's story to reach new people.
"At this point, that's what police are relying on is help from the public," Hartmann said.
Hartmann believes law enforcement agencies involved in the case are doing a good job providing details of what they can share and encouraging anyone who may have any information to reach out. But Hartmann said that is not enough. She would like to see more national media bring their attention to this case.
"If this child was indeed abducted who knows where that child is now," Hartmann said. "The child may be nowhere near Fruitland. It's important that everyone is looking for Michael, no matter where they live."
Other national agencies like the FBI have also been working to find Michael since the beginning.
In a statement to KTVB, spokesperson Sandra Barker wrote:
The FBI has provided investigative, forensic, and technical assistance, including behavior analyses and the expertise of the FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Team The CARD Team consists of specially trained investigators experienced in child abduction cases who can rapidly deploy anywhere in the country. The CARD team provides a quick and effective response to a child abduction or mysterious disappearance of a child and provides investigative, technical and resource assistance to state and local law enforcement during the critical time period following that abduction or mysterious disappearance.
"The search for Michael is a strong collaborative effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with one goal: to recover Michael and bring him home."
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.
No further updates were provided this week. The investigation remains ongoing.
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.