FRUITLAND — Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff provided an update this morning on the case of 5-year-old Michael ‘Monkey’ Joseph Vaughan, who has been missing since July 27, having last been seen near his neighborhood that evening.
While the search for Michael continues, a reward fund has now been set up. Huff explained that the fund was made possible due to a $10,000 donation, made by someone who wants to remain anonymous. The chief said when the donor handed him the cashier's check he told the chief, "If that little boy is found and brought home safely, that will have been the best money I have ever spent."
Huff said not only did the gesture warm his heart, it was a big deal for the case.
"Our hope behind that is that it may motivate somebody that has information to share it with us," he said. "Obviously we are looking for the safe return of the child — that's our goal and continues to be our hope."
Huff added that he is not soliciting donations for the reward fund, as it is a lot of money; however added that law enforcement members are "very, very grateful," as they haven't had that up to this point.
Parents 'hanging in'
The chief says they remain in contact daily with Michael's parents, who are "hanging in and absolutely 100% cooperative," adding that he wanted to continue to let the community know that the parents are working well with law enforcement.
As to how they are handling the situation, Huff says they are handling it about as well as somebody could who is missing their 5 year old.
"It is heartbreaking."
While searches have slowed down somewhat for now, Huff said the Payette County Sheriff's Office was still running its marine unit up and down the Snake River once or twice a week. On Wednesday, they spent the entire day on the stretch of the river from Payette to Annex, checking sloughs and searching banks.
"They've been a tremendous help," he said.
Additionally, the intent is to get assistance from the sheriff's office again in the near future to launch its drone and cover some of the agricultural areas and fields that we have in the past. Huff said the drone has great cameras with high resolution they can see very well. There are also a few properties they want to get back to search a little better.
What to know
Huff said to date there have been about 370 tips or leads which continue to come in. He didn't have an exact percentage, but said that a significant amount had been investigated and cleared.
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.