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‘We love you Monkey’: Community honors missing Fruitland boy for his sixth birthday

Nearly a year after his disappearance, community members gathered to honor Michael Vaughan and support his family on his sixth birthday.

FRUITLAND, Idaho —

Blue balloons were sent off into the sky in Kiwianis Park in Payette Friday to celebrate and honor missing Fruitland boy Michael Vaughan's sixth birthday.

“I hope he sees them," said Brandi Neal, Michael’s mother. She added blue was his favorite color and she made sure to get biodegradable balloons because he "loved the environment."

"Today is about his beautiful face and his life that was brought here to us and everyone here six years ago," Neal said. 

"He's beyond missed and beyond loved and we need him. We need him," said Tyler Vaughan, Michael's father.

Michael was last seen around 6:30 p.m. on July 27, 2021 around SW 9th Street. in Fruitland. 

Nearly a year later, not many details have been released in the investigation as to what happened to him, but Michael's family continues to stay hopeful. 

"He's coming home and we're waiting for him- we're all waiting for him," Neal said. "Every single one of us are waiting for him and we're going to bring him home." 

Throughout the last 11 months, community members around Payette County continue to step up to help Michael's family.

"This is a hard day for anybody and there's no map on how to do this," said Cassidy Burns, a resident of Payette. 

Burns, who owns Broken Halo Barbershop in Payette, said she works constantly to get Michael’s story out into the world. She said she helps post flyers and make social media posts with Michael's face and name.

“We need to continue to share his face and support the family as much as possible," Burns said. 

Sharing Michael's face is something Fruitland's Jamie Toscano has tried to do as much as she can too. 

"I wear this [shirt with Michael's face on it] when I go places, and for any events, and for my kids, I put pins on them too,” Toscano said. “Whenever we're going anywhere with a high traffic of people and sometimes we get stopped and asked." 

Michael's family said seeing the support from their community is nice, they just hope Michael will one day soon see how much he is loved in person again. 

"We will never give up we have to stay vigilant. As hard as it is some days, we bring will him home," Vaughan said.

"We're going to bring him home that's what drives us because we know he's out there somewhere and we're not going to stop," Neal said.

KTVB reached out to Fruitland Police in person and via email Friday about new details into Michael's case. They were not immediately available.

Earlier in June, Fruitland PD Chief JD Huff said investigators were not able to release any names of persons of interest, but they did have many. 

"As you can imagine anyone in the area that evening is a potential person of interest. We are working through every lead and have been able to clear a large number of leads," Huff said.

Fruitland Police Department told KTVB in March investigators had received nearly 850 leads on Michael's disappearance, but almost all of them have been cleared.  

Huff said Fruitland Police continue to work with their partners from the FBI and Idaho State Police on the case. Huff called this a criminal investigation. Back in October 2021, law enforcement said it is highly likely Michael has been abducted.

Michael is described as 3 feet, 7 inches tall; about 50 pounds; with blond hair and blue eyes.

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 findmichael@fruitland.org. 

The reward for Michael's safe return is more than $52,000.

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