FRUITLAND — Tuesday marked 30 days since a Fruitland boy went missing, and Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff was finally able to find a window of time to talk to the newspaper outside of the updates that have been happening on his department’s Facebook page.
5-year-old Michael ‘Monkey’ Joseph Vaughan, who has been missing since July 27, was last been seen near his neighborhood that evening.
In addition to going over the most recent search and investigation information with the paper, which was posted on Facebook Tuesday and published in the newspaper on Wednesday, Huff talked about the mental health of his team.
The chief says there are well over 5,000 combined man hours in the investigation and search, and that they are committed to continuing in every way possible to finding Michael.
“That’s pretty intense,” he says. “Every one of us here are heartsick. When we go home at night, this is what we think about. Our primary goal is to locate Michael and bring him home, and we’re not going to stop until we get that done.”
Fortunately, for employees of the city of Fruitland there are resources, such as an employee assistance program, which can and is being used for mental health care as needed. Usually, help is a phone call away; however, with the recent turn of events, some professionals have been in Fruitland.
“I can tell you that over the last week, we have had some of those trained individuals here at the police department to help us work thru some of these issues that we may have with it mentally,” Huff said.
This is because of the amount of time which has been invested in the case.
“Michael is one of ours and we view him as one of our little boys so it does hit home,” he said. “It’s tough from a law enforcement standpoint. We feel a lot of pressure. Citizens want a resolution, we feel and that’s a heavy burden to bear.”
At the same time, As he and his team have stepped up, the community in turn has stepped up to help them.
“This community is an amazing community,” Huff said. “They are extremely supportive and continue to be.”
He said while they are the few people who are negative or critical, that happens in most any case, and he tends to focus on the positive and those who have hope.
“As far I’m concerned, if you’re hoping, you’re helping,” Huff said.
He said people need to remain hopeful and positive in this situation, and need to understand that law enforcement doesn’t have an immediate solution.
“People get frustrated,” Huff said. “We are frustrated, as well. It is not going to stop our efforts. We are committed and continue to stay committed, positive and hopeful.”
There are also members of the community who have helped with monetary donations, and for that reason and a contingency fund, the chief said he does not believe expenses of the search or investigation efforts will be a budget-buster.
“We are spending money we weren’t expecting, but we will not exceed the budget. We have received a lot of support from our community by way of donations,” the chief said. “I’m not worried about the budget.”
Studies suggest that as time wears on, our memory may not be as sharp as we think. However, if someone remembers something or hears something or comes across something that may be helpful, Huff urges them to call in — even if they aren’t sure if it is a legitimate tip.
“Let us be the judge of whether the tip is credible, because that one little piece of information they send in could make a difference or may lead to information that is relative,” he said.
In addition to law enforcement across the country stepping up to assist with tips that lead to their respective areas, Huff said Idaho State Police and the FBI continue to assist Fruitland Police Department on a daily basis. He said that they are coming later in the day so that they have a better chance of finding people at home and meeting with citizens and people who were in the area at the time of Michael’s disappearance.
He said some things in the search will change as we see a change and shift in seasons, and the water and irrigation gets shut down.
“We’re hoping that’s not where we find Michael, but everything is still on the table at this point as we continue to tighten up those possibilities,” Huff said.
What to know
For more information online, including a downloadable flyer or how to provide tips, including anonymous tips, visit https://bit.ly/HelpFindMichael.
Michael was last seen in the area of SW 9th St. and South Arizona Avenue in Fruitland at about 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. on July 27.
He was wearing a light blue Minecraft T-shirt, dark blue or black boxer briefs with a green stripe and child’s size 11, blue flip flops.
He is 3-foot-7-inches tall, 50 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes.