FRUITLAND, Idaho — On Thursday, Jan. 27, it will have been six months since Michael Vaughan of Fruitland disappeared.
The five-year-old boy was last seen at about 6:30 p.m. July 27 around SW 9th Street. He is described as 3 feet, 7 inches tall; about 50 pounds; with blond hair and blue eyes. The boy was wearing a blue Minecraft sweatshirt and black boxer briefs. He also answers to a nickname, "Monkey."
In a statement sent to KTVB Wednesday, Fruitland Police Department (FPD) Chief J.D. Huff said it continues to work with Michael's family and an update on the investigation will be released Friday via FPD's Facebook.
"We too are battling Covid, which cause low staffing levels," Huff said. "I intend to put out another Facebook update on Friday, but I don't have a lot that I can share. The Fruitland Police Detectives and all of our law enforcement partners assigned to FPD continue working with the family to find Michael every day. We obviously run into some delays when working through legal processes to gather data and other information, but our efforts remain steadfast."
In a Jan. 28 Facebook post, the Fruitland Police Department wrote that they are continuing to investigate tips and follow up on leads. The reward for Michael's safe return is now up to $52,860.
"Over the last month, we've focused on leads that continue to come in from around the Northwest and indeed, the world. Our investigators have covered a lot of ground investigating credible leads to completion with several being actively worked on," the post read. 'Every lead offers a new direction and we continue to follow them with vigor. The number of leads received is currently 830 with more coming in daily. Our ground searches have been suspended due to winter weather conditions, but if a credible lead sends us to a forest or a field, we will go."
Idaho State Police and the FBI are assisting with the investigation.
"We continue to comb through the data collected since July 27, 2021, and it is a monumental task, but we remain committed and steadfast in our efforts," the Fruitland Police Dept. said in its Dec. 22 Facebook post. "As most of us prepare to spend a Christmas holiday gathered with family and friends, we ask you to keep those who are unable to gather in your prayers, specifically 5-year-old Michael Joseph Vaughan. There will be an empty seat at his family's table and for many of us in this community, an empty place in our hearts until Michael comes home."
A reward for information leading to Michael's safe return has grown to $52,206, the Fruitland Police Dept. said Dec. 22.
On Christmas Eve, a candlelight vigil and moment of silence was held at Fruitland City Park for Michael. The event was created on Facebook and asked for the community to show unity with the Vaughan family. Lana Westbrook coordinated the vigil and hosted the event along with Brooke Amber and the Michael Vaughan Fruitland Community Missing Child Search Facebook page.
"We will never give up hope my love," Michael's mother, Brandi Neal said. "We are here to help light your way home."
Anyone with any information is urged to contact the Fruitland Police Department at 208-642-6006, extension 0, or contact the department through their tip line at email@example.com. A poster of Michael from the Idaho Missing Persons Clearinghouse is available here.
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