FRUITLAND — A 5-year-old boy from Fruitland remains missing and the Fruitland Police Department is coordinating citizen search efforts beginning this morning at 9 a.m. in the southern parking lot of the Fruitland High School. The efforts will stretch to 1 p.m. and police will pass out search assignments to those who join and are urging those who are willing to participate and organize with the agency.
"If you choose to conduct your own search effort, we are asking you to respect the property owners and contact them prior to searching," reads a news release sent at about 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Michael Joseph Vaughan, who answers to the nickname, "Monkey," was last seen at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near his residence walking east on Southwest Ninth Street. He was wearing a light blue Minecraft T-shirt with dark blue boxer briefs. He weighs 50 pounds is about 3 and a-half feet tall and has blonde hair and blue eyes.
Several residents have asked why an Amber Alert was not issued, and Fruitland Police Chief Huff explained to the newspaper that there was not criteria, such as a suspect person or vehicle, in order to use that alert system. Alerts did go out through Payette County's Code Red system as well as Idaho's Missing Persons Clearinghouse.
On Wednesday, multiple law enforcement agencies, including Idaho State Police, joined Fruitland Police in search efforts. This search included "the methodical search of residences near the home and continued searches of the area by K-9 units and Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Team," states the release.
Additionally the U.S. Army National Guard deployed a helicopter, searching the entire area in cooperation with those on the ground. Also, as part of the search, water levels in area canals were reduced and searched by law enforcement K-9 and fire personnel, according to the release.
"Confident that the immediate area was thoroughly searched, the Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Team was released," it states.
"The Fruitland Police Department would like to extend a sincere thanks to all of our partner first responders and our community for taking the time to help us thoroughly search the area," reads the release, additionally noting that "public support for the teams involved in this search has truly been unmatched."
As the investigation continues, police urge the community to continue to help with locating Michael by remaining vigilant and observant. Property owners, again, are urged to thoroughly search their properties and security camera footage.
“Please check your crawl spaces, sheds, trailers and vehicles, and any other place a five year old might hide or become stuck,” reads a post on the Fruitland Police Department from Wednesday night.
Anybody who finds anything of interest is urged to call 911 and stay out until law enforcement responds.