FRUITLAND — Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff announced a major update this morning regarding the reward fund for missing 5-year-old Michael ‘Monkey’ Joseph Vaughan. The fund has more than doubled, having grown to $26,000 this week with a major push from the community and Michael’s parents.
In a phone interview this morning, Huff said that a group of citizens earlier this week had raised $12,000 to give to Michael’s parents to help the family out.
“They told me to turn around and put that toward the reward fund,” he said.
Shortly after that, the family brought in another significant donation for the fund, boosting it to the current amount.
“That’s a big deal, Huff said. “Every time that grows, we’re hoping the incentive to come forward with information grows, maybe it motivates people who could benefit from it.”
The reward for the safe return of Michael is available through Nov. 15, Huff said.
Michael went missing from his home on July 27, and as the days wear on and the 2-month mark is approaching, the chief said you can tell it is taking a toll on Michael’s parents; however, they remain hopeful, as does the chief.
“They remain 100% cooperative and the fact that they are giving up money donated to them means something. It is a big deal,” Huff said. “They want their child home, and I do, too. I want Michael home safely.”
The police chief said all options regarding Michael’s whereabouts remain on the table, with an “immense amount of data” that has been collected which is still being combed through. In addition to video footage from residents and businesses, data has come in from “a lot of places,” Huff said. This includes tips, which are still regularly coming in.
“We continue to follow up on leads,” he said.
Every tip — 415 and counting — is being followed up on.
“We’re just waiting for that one thread to push us in the right direction and help us get this unraveled,” Huff said.
Law enforcement officials are “staying after it,” he said, adding that the FBI is still here every week assisting members of the Fruitland Police Department. Idaho State Police are working from a distance on tasks related to the case, such as following up on leads that are outside of the local area but elsewhere in the state. Anything outside of the state is handled by the FBI.
“It’s so nice having the FBI with us throughout the week,” Huff said. “This is the heart of the operation. The investigation is going on all day, every day, and agencies outside of our state area actively following up on leads and tips.”
Fruitland has also recruited more local departments when possible, as they sometimes see a quicker response.
Some of the same areas have been revisited in the search, Huff said, adding that Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue searched a few areas once more last week, and the plan is for more places to be looked at again as the irrigation season winds down and water is shut down.
An official with the irrigation district this morning said that irrigation in the city of Fruitland will probably last into mid or late October. Due to the dry year, the hope is to let farmers go into the fall “kind of wet.” While the water rights allow usage through Oct. 31, it may only go through about Oct. 20. A date will likely be determined around Oct. 7 during the next meeting.
“I really think it would be in our best interest to cover that drainage again, even though we know people have been in there,” Huff said. “We’ll cover it for a third or fourth time.”
Fields around the area of Southwest Ninth, which is where Michael was last seen near his home, will be searched again, as well, with harvesting of crops having started. Continuing to search in that area as fields get cleared will give law enforcement officials a clear indicator of whether Michael is there.
Huff stated that in addition to law enforcement and community members, farmers are aware and have their eyes open for any signs of Michael, too.
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.