FRUITLAND — The neighborhood where a 5-year-old boy went missing a little 10 days ago is the childhood neighborhood of Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff, he told news reporters during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. He says law enforcement are “all in and determined to find” Michael “Monkey” Joseph Vaughan, who has been missing since the evening of July 27.
Myriad law enforcement agencies have been doing a “completely methodical” search of the Fruitland area, concentrating their efforts now on the area near Michael’s home. In addition to teams of law enforcement personnel, including Fruitland and Boise police department, the Idaho State Police, FBI and 13 different Idaho law enforcement agencies, assistance has also come in from the Fruitland and Sand Hollow fire departments.
More than 200 residential homes and properties — as well as three subdivisions — have been searched and interviews have been conducted with all those residents, Huff said.
“We have been through your homes, and in some instances several times, and from my heart I truly appreciate you,” the chief said.
Searches have also included 200 garbage cans and a septic tank, which was pumped out because it had a makeshift wooden lid on top of it.
“Five year olds are crafty,” Huff said.
Searchers have completed an exhaustive ground search, including more than 3,000 acres of farm ground with multiple certified K-9 teams and 29 miles of river bank using private fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, sophisticated drones, boats, boats with K-9s, kayaks and paragliders. While Huff wasn’t sure of those man hours, he said he was certain it would mirror those hours spent investigating the case.
Drone and boat searches along the Snake River banks will continue, he said.
This morning, the search continued in an area below Southwest Eighth Street, where heavy foliage was removed and a specialty K-9 unit was deployed. On Wednesday, the chief said a dive team had been scheduled to come in and search a pond in the sloughs in that area.
Lynn Hightower, public information officer for Idaho State Police, provided an update by email on Thursday afternoon.
“The pond was searched today and cleared, meaning they did not find anything,” she said.
Also on Thursday, Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff released a newer photo of Michael, which was said to have been taken just one month prior to the time he was last seen.
As no scenario has been ruled out, Huff said Fruitland Police Department will continue to use all available outside resources, such as the dive team, as long as they are available, commenting that it is on a day by day basis at this time.
Recent high temperatures and heavy rains have hampered K-9’s, especially scent K-9’s, Huff said.
“After heavy rain the other day, that was one of our major concerns,” he said.
However, they will continue to deploy those K-9s as they are still an available resource.
“I’m not sure when it will run out, but we will use every resource available,” Huff said.
While police can not comment on the investigation, the chief urged the community to share only accurate information — especially over social media, saying rumors and speculation complicate the investigation.
The chief said in addition to multiple alerts issued locally between 8:20 and 11:20 p.m. that night, that the National Crime and Information Center was notified as soon as possible after Michael was missing. This included providing his image and information, so that if he was found by law enforcement anywhere in the country, he could be identified.
Businesses and residents have handed over 60 videos to law enforcement personnel and there have been 163 tips, all of which have been assigned, and some of which have been followed up on and cleared, according to the chief.
Not counting man hours from emergency medical services, search and rescue teams or community volunteers, Huff said it is estimated that law enforcement agencies altogether have spent 2,500 man hours on the search.
“I have never seen a police presence like this,” the chief said, extending his “heartfelt appreciation” to all involved, including residents in search areas.
As far as what the community can do, Huff urges residents to take another look at their surroundings.
“What I’d like you to do is search the immediate area. Look once. Look again,” he said, adding that this should include outbuildings, vehicles, fence-lines any video footage.
“Children move around and they wander and he may have traveled back into your yard without you knowing. Please search again,” Huff urged.
Additionally, anybody who has credible tips is urged to call in if they know something.
“We are here. We want to listen. Please talk to us,” he said, adding they were grateful for all the support from the community.
This includes numerous community partners and business owners who have donated “countless amounts of food and water.”
“Our investigators are laser focused and our morale is good,” he said, repeating that Michael’s family continues to be fully cooperative with police.
As far as a reward for information leading to Michael’s return, Huff indicated that something is in the works, as private individuals have been in contact with him about that.
He urges people outside the community to stay vigilant, and keep looking at the flyers, adding that a team of people had been putting them up throughout the Western Treasure Valley.
“Our primary goal is locating Michael and bringing him home,” Huff said.
“From our hearts, we truly appreciate” the cooperation of citizens.
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.