Idaho Town Is Upended in Search for Missing Boy: ‘We Are All In’
For 10 days, the peaceful dormitory community of Fruitland, Idaho was overrun by drones, dog units and hordes of volunteers on foot, all scouring the city in a desperate effort to find a 5-year-old boy whose the family calls him Monkey.
Fruitland’s 12 police officers, aided by more than a dozen local agencies, the FBI, and state and county police, searched more than 3,000 acres of land, 200 homes and businesses, 200 garbage cans, a septic tank and 29 miles from the Snake River. bank bordering Idaho and Oregon looking for any sign of the missing child, Michael Joseph Vaughan.
Mayor Brian Howell said residents have “never seen anything like it” in Fruitland.
“It’s a pretty amazing little town,” Mr. Howell said. “Everyone is looking for him. He personally joined a search effort in the fields near Michael’s home in Fruitland, a town of 5,400 people about 50 miles northwest of Boise. The town, although non-agricultural itself, is surrounded by farmland, forming part of the largely rural Payette County.
But over 2,500 hours of research yielded very little, if any, developments.
Investigators are “working as hard right now as they were when he first went missing,” Mr. Howell said. “They literally neglect nothing. They drain the canals, they inspect the houses. They are doing all they can.
According to local reports, the city refuses to slow down research efforts. Residents have come together not only to watch, but also to provide resources, Mr. Howell said. Restaurants donated food to search crews and authorities, and some owners closed for a few hours during the day to roam the fields around town. Some residents have carried out their own investigations, against the will of the police.
Jennifer Hanna, a nanny in Michael’s family, is said to have led prayer circles for the boy’s safe return.
“We have to find this kid,” Ms. Hanna told Idaho News, a local CBS affiliate. “We arrived at.”
Police said residents assisted with the search efforts. Many have allowed officers to check their homes multiple times and locals have called more than 160 tips and provided more than 60 surveillance videos of local residences and businesses, said JD Huff, the police chief of Fruitland.
“The outpouring of care, time, love and support has exceeded anything we could imagine! Michael’s mother Brandi Neal 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 police press conferences and the family’s Facebook posts, Michael was last seen on July 27 around 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. near his home. He was wearing a blue Minecraft T-shirt and black boxers with lime green trims.
Chief Huff told a press conference on Wednesday that authorities had “ruled out no 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 disappeared,” Chief Huff said at the press conference. “My children grow up here, my law enforcement partners are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles or friends of children like Michael. We are all concerned and we are committed to finding Michael.
Chief Huff said he would continue to use the national resources at his disposal, including a dive team to look across the bed of the Snake River.
“We just want our monkey house,” Ms. Neal said last week.
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