Idaho Town Is Upended in Search for Missing Boy: ‘We Are All In’

Michael Joseph Vaughan, 5, whose family calls him Monkey, was last seen on July 27 near his home in Fruitland, Idaho, according to the boy’s family. The police say they have no leads.,


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For 10 days, the quiet bedroom community of Fruitland, Idaho, has been overrun by drones, canine units and hordes of on-foot volunteers, all scouring the city in a desperate effort to find a 5-year-old boy whose family calls him Monkey.

Fruitland’s 12 police officers, aided by more than a dozen local agencies, the F.B.I. and the state and county police, have searched over 3,000 acres of land, 200 residences and businesses, 200 trash cans, a septic tank and 29 miles of the Snake River bank bordering Idaho and Oregon looking for any sign of the missing child, Michael Joseph Vaughan.

Mayor Brian Howell said residents had “never seen anything like this” in Fruitland.

“It’s a pretty incredible little town,” Mr. Howell said. “Everyone is looking for him.” He personally joined some search efforts in the fields near Michael’s home in Fruitland, a city of 5,400 residents about 50 miles northwest of Boise. The town, though not agricultural itself, is surrounded by farmland, part of largely rural Payette County.

But over 2,500 hours of searching has yielded very few, if any, developments.

Investigators have been “working just as hard right now as they did when he was first missing,” Mr. Howell said. “They’re literally leaving no stone unturned. They’re draining canals, they’re checking homes. They’re doing everything that they can do.”

According to local reports, the town is refusing to slow down search efforts. Residents have come together not only to look, but also to provide resources, Mr. Howell said. Restaurants have donated food to search parties and the authorities, and some owners have closed for a few hours in the day to walk the fields around the town. Some residents have conducted their own investigations, against police wishes.

Jennifer Hanna, a nanny for Michael’s family, has reportedly been leading prayer circles for the boy’s safe return.

“We gotta find that kid,” Ms. Hanna told Idaho News, a local CBS affiliate. “We got to.”

The police have said that residents have been helping search efforts. Many have allowed officers to check their homes several times and people in the area have called in over 160 tips and provided over 60 surveillance videos from residences and local businesses, said J.D. Huff, the Fruitland police chief.

“The outpouring care, time, love and support has been beyond anything we could imagine!” Brandi Neal, Michael’s mother, wrote on Facebook last week. “This unimaginable nightmare is beyond words I can express!” Ms. Neal and Tyler Vaughan, Michael’s father, declined to be interviewed for this article.

According to news conferences by the police and Facebook posts from the family, Michael was last seen on July 27 around 6:30 or 7 p.m. near his house. He was wearing a blue Minecraft T-shirt and black boxer briefs with lime green trim.

Chief Huff said at a news conference on Wednesday that the authorities had not “eliminated any possibility” and that the priority of the investigation continued to be finding Michael. Chief Huff declined to be interviewed.

“I have to tell you that I spent my entire childhood in the neighborhood where Michael went missing,” Chief Huff said at the news conference. “My children are growing up here, my law enforcement partners are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles or friends of children just like Michael. We are all in, and we are committed to finding Michael.”

Chief Huff said that he would continue to use the national resources available to him, including a dive team to look through the bed of the Snake River.

“We just want our Monkey home,” Ms. Neal said last week.

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