On Tuesday, July 27, 2021, the community of Fruitland, Idaho has been impacted by the disappearance of a 5-year-old boy, Michael Vaughn. In a move that puzzled some citizens of Fruitland, Payette County opted to issue an endangered missing person alert for the missing boy rather than the more colloquially-known AMBER Alert. Michael is described as 3’7″ tall, 50 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue ‘minecraft’ shirt and dark blue boxer briefs with sandals.
Michael Vaughn was last seen on Tuesday in the area of SW 9th and Arizona around 6:30 p.m. It was only an hour before law enforcement was on the ground looking for Micahel, assisted by the fire department, EMS, helicopters, drones, and a throng of community volunteers. Despite their best efforts, these first searches yielded no answers for investigators. “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,” Huff said, however, “I am asking citizen searchers to stay out of the area until the professional search crews are finished.”
Many wondered why investigators did not issue an AMBER Alert for Michael Vaughn when he was reported missing. After all, an Amber alert gives investigators the ability to send out a notification to all cell phones within a designated radius to increase the chances of discovering leads. However, law enforcement is typically very discerning when it comes to issuing AMBER Alerts. If AMBER Alerts are issued too liberally, their impact can be diminished as the notifications become part of the digital background noise in all of our lives. Therefore law enforcement adheres to strict critereia when it comes to AMBER Alerts, which is as follows:
A child is known by police to have been abducted.
The abduction occurred within 12 hours of initial rerport
Child is under 17
Investigators must suspect the child of being in immediate danger or loss of life.
There must be enough information regarding the disappearance to make the AMBER alert useful to public.
The missing child has been entered into NCIC.
In the event that a missing child case does not meet all of the above criteria, law enforcement is then able to issue an Endangered Missing Person Alert, which carries similar tools to that of the AMBER alert. These notifications are sent through email, text messages, social media posts, and the alerting program known as CodeRED. By 9:40 on the evening Michael Vaughn disappeared, investigators had expanded the notification of his disappearance nationwide.
There is an epidemic of people going missing in the United States that is on steady incline. It effects families across all classes, all races, all ideologies. Over 600,000 people are reported missing in the United States every year. Most of those reported missing are found not long after the onset of the investigation. However, that still leaves thousands of cases open and unsolved across the nation, with some jurisdictions having scant resources or inadequate experience to close those cases. On top of these shortcomings, some missing person cases will be inherently more difficult than others, typically because the missing person has some form of special needs. Whether the local authorities or an independent investigator is heading up the search, it’s imperative that they be able to mitigate the special circumstances of a missing person with special needs.
When we talk about a missing person with special needs, this can mean many different things. Missing people who have personal circumstances that would make the search atypical for investigators can be defined as special needs. The first thing that might come to mind is a missing person with intellectual disabilities or a person who requires the use of a wheelchair or crutches. However, they could also have a mental illness, have behavioral or personality disorder, or have external circumstances that would make their day-to-day life atypical, like houselessness or substance abuse. The investigator in charge must be well-versed in those issues, and consider them when developing a strategy for the missing person search.
While every missing person case will be unique in its own way, the early stages of most missing person investigations begin with similar approaches, typically by interviewing the family and getting as much information on the missing person as possible. Missing persons who do not have special needs will stick to routines that are in line with their careers, families, or interests—movements that are relatively easy to predict and deviations from these movements can be easily classified as suspect. When searching for a missing person with special needs, conclusions about these circumstances cannot be easily defined without further investigation. Lauth missing person investigators know the importance of keeping an open mind and an open ear in the early stages of a missing person investigation. Our missing person investigators give each case the unique attention it deserves.
When searching for a missing person with special needs, the families must have the consult of a responsive and communicative investigator. After all, the special circumstances of the case will need the guidance of the family in order to execute the search efficiently. Families must seek an investigator who will make regular progress reports, ask a great deal of questions, and take the anecdotal evidence of the family to heart when formulating a plan to find the missing person. At the conclusion of the investigation, that investigator will prepare a comprehensive report of all their findings for the family, answering all of the open questions in the case to the best of their ability, even when those findings may be difficult to hear.
Missing person investigators must also have a diverse recovery plan in place should the leads end in discovering the missing person’s location. The right missing person investigator will have the professionalism and humility to know when they are in over their head, and require the assistance of local law enforcement to assist in recovery efforts, particularly when the missing person has fallen victim to some form of human trafficking and is being held by volatile subjects. Whatever the precarious circumstances the case has led to, the best missing person investigators will always have contingency plans in place that prioritize the safe recovery of a missing loved one.
If you are missing a loved one with special needs, contact Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our missing person services. Lauth carries a glowing A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and regularly receives 5-star reviews from our grateful clients. Call 317-951-1100 today or visit us online at www.lauthmissingpersons.com
When a drone enthusiast set out to capture the Palm Bay scenery from above, little did he know that he was about to be plunged into a twelve-year-old missing person case. Dan Osterhout had flown his drone above the Bayside Lakes neighborhood in Palm Bay, central Florida, many times before. However, within his drone’s destined route on Thursday 27th May, unusually dry weather had triggered a unique set of circumstances that would yield unexpected results in the drone flight.
The water level of a nearby retention pond was lower than ever, and the water was particularly clear. As Osterhout examined his captured footage of the depths below, he realized that he could see a vehicle submerged in the water, and he quickly reported it to the authorities. The silver 2002 Ford Mustang in question was connected to a 2009 missing person case that had long gone cold.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Philippe Desir
Philippe Desir vanished from Palm Bay on February 7th, 2009, just around the corner from the pond in question. In a disappearance shrouded in mystery, Police Lieutenant Chris Imel shared that “his wife reported him missing during the middle of the night.” He reported that Desir’s wife had said that “he just got up and left the house and that was pretty much the end of it.” The missing man was 38 years old at the time when he vanished, and would be 50 years old today.
The Missing Endangered Persons Alert issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement described Desir as an African-American male, last seen wearing a red shirt and blue jeans. With no indication of suspicious circumstances and no trail to follow, the case of Desir’s disappearance soon went cold. Fast forward to 2021, following Osterhout’s discovery, it was Desir’s distinctive 2002 silver Ford Mustang that would signal the connection between the 2009 case and the tragic discovery of human remains within the Palm Bay pond.
Arrival of the Underwater Recovery Team
Upon investigation, members of the Palm Bay Police Underwater Recovery Team were able to locate the metallic two-door Mustang seen by the drone that would later be confirmed as registered to Desir. The car was found upside-down, with the windows rolled down. Its tires were reportedly mangled, and the windshield damaged, leading to speculation as to how the vehicle may have arrived in its submerged state.
After the recovery team slowly pulled the sediment-filled vehicle from the water, investigators confirmed that skeletal remains were found within it—including an intact skull. While it may seem logical to conclude that the remains are that of Philippe Desir, absolute certainty will remain out of reach until the medical examiner’s investigation is finalized.
Possible Closure on A Long-Unsolved Case
Speaking to Florida Today about the Philippe Desir missing person case, Police Lieutenant Jeff Spears of the Palm Bay Police Department explained, “this was a cold case. But it’s one of those situations where we do what we do. We always follow up on missing person cases every year to validate that the person is still missing.”
Following these most recent developments, Lieutenant Imel is reported to have added, “at this point, there does not appear to be any indication of foul play, but yet again it is still under investigation. As far as suicide goes, that is something else that is under investigation.”
There has been no media mention of Desir’s friends and family over the course of recent coverage but, whenever a person’s disappearance remains unexplained, there is likely to be those who carry the burden of not knowing what happened to their loved one. While it is true that the sad loss of a life—far too young—has been revealed under the strangest of circumstances, there may be some small comfort to find in answers to those questions that remained unresolved for so many years.
In May of 2005, Alabama teen Natalee Holloway’s future seemed brimming with bright promise. The straight-A student had just graduated from Mountain Brook High School, before flying to holiday hot-spot Aruba with her senior classmates. She was among a group of 124 students on the celebratory trip, accompanied by seven adult chaperones. The promise of spectacular sunshine and vibrant nightlife awaited. However, Holloway was never to return home, and the missing person case that followed—laced with ever-shifting and conflicting testimonies—would lead only to more questions, rather than the answers that her family continues to seek. The story of Natalee Holloway continues to fascinate and horrify true crime followers and mystify investigators of all backgrounds.
A Parent’s Greatest Fear
On May 30th, the day that the students were set to return home, Natalee’s friends realized that she had vanished. The teen’s belongings and passport remained untouched in her room, and her mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, received news that her daughter was missing. The very same day, the family traveled to Aruba in search of Natalee. Not wasting any time, the family followed the teenager’s trail to the Holiday Inn where she was staying, a nearby bar, and the house of a seventeen-year-old boy named Joran Van der Sloot.
Soon it would emerge that Van der Sloot alongside two friends, brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, had met Natalee the evening before, and together they had been seen leaving the bar sometime after 1 am. In the first of many contradictory claims, Van der Sloot and the brothers told the frantic family that they had left Natalee outside her hotel, where they saw a security guard helping her inside.
A Substantial Search Effort
On June 1st, a search began that would quickly turn the Dutch Caribbean community upside-down. Volunteers started combing the area for signs of Natalee, and as her missing status was made official, the Aruban police, Dutch Marines, and even fighter planes from the Netherlands were enlisted to help—although every search strategy remains fruitless. Beginning on June 5th, the first arrests were made, starting with local security guards, and progressing to a club DJ and Paulus van der Sloot, Joran’s father.
On June 9th, Joran and the brothers were arrested. At this point, their stories began to shift, with a new narrative indicating that the brothers had left Van der Sloot alone with Natalee on a beach, and he himself insisting that he had left her there soon after. The next month, the Kalpoe brothers were released without charge, only to later be arrested again. Although van der Sloot was held for substantially longer, all were ultimately deemed free to go.
False Leads and Legal Action
An array of false leads tugged all who were following the case—which was quickly garnering international attention—towards raised hopes that were repeatedly dashed. Strands of blonde hair found on a piece of duct tape, blood on a bed that turned out to canine, a gardener’s witness statement that led to the searching of a nearby pond, and the sighting of a scull in an off-shore fish trap all left the investigation without progress.
Over the coming years, Natalee’s family would launch lawsuits against Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers, and each would be arrested again to no avail. The media furor that surrounded the case drew intense pressure upon the Aruban authorities, and Van der Sloot was thrust into the spotlight in a lengthy interview with Fox News.
A Hidden Camera and Extortion Attempt
In February of 2008, Dutch reporter Peter R. de Vries spoke with Joran Van der Sloot while filming with a concealed camera. Within the footage, Van der Sloot could be seen telling the reporter than Holloway had collapsed on the beach and he and a friend had decided to dispose of her body at sea. As soon as the teen learned that the conversation had been captured, he declared that he had been lying.
Two years later, in March of 2010, Van der Sloot approached the lawyer of Natalee’s mother with the offer of a deal: he would reveal the location of her body, in return for $250,000. With the FBI on hand, lawyer John Q. Kelly coordinated an initial $25,000 payment for Van der Sloot—however, the promised location, which was claimed to be the foundation of a house, was also revealed as yet more misinformation.
A Brutal Twist Away From Justice
In 2010, despite ongoing interest in relation to Natalee’s disappearance, Van der Sloot managed to slip under the radar and make his way to Peru. Here, he was soon charged with the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramirez. Although Van der Sloot initially fled the scene of Ramirez’s murder before being arrested in Chile, in January of 2011 he pleaded guilty to the murder, and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. Devastated at the thought that a second girl might have fallen victim to their daughter’s potential killer, the family reeled at this sudden change of circumstances.
At the request of her father, Natalee Holloway was declared dead by an Alabama judge in 2012. While the possibility remains that Van der Sloot might face extradition to the United States following his prison term in Peru, the Holloway family faces a long wait for a further pass at justice for Natalee. Still holding on to hope that answers will one day be granted, Natalee’s mother has since founded the International Safe Travels Foundation, a non-profit which informs and educates on traveling more safely, and the Natalee Holloway Resource Center in Washington, D.C, which supports other families navigating the disappearance of a loved one.
Although the Missing Endangered Person Advisory issued on June 24th for Monica Rose Downs has now expired, she remains missing—and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office continues to appeal for any information in relation to her disappearance or whereabouts. As the moment approaches when the days since Monica vanished might turn into weeks, all investigators on her trail will consider every possible clue to be of value in the effort to return her home safely.
Born on January 27th, 1982, Monica is 39 years old. She is reported to have been wearing a white tank top, black and white yoga pants, and a pair of black flip-flops on the day she disappeared. Monica is described as 5’7” tall, weighing around 105 pounds, and has long black hair and brown eyes. Monica was last seen near the Montana city of Bozeman, on Interstate-90 around mile marker 321.
Disappearance Under Concerning Circumstances
On Thursday 24th June 2021, Monica Rose Downs was traveling from Washington through the Bozeman area in the company of her boyfriend. The two are thought to have stopped at the pullout area at the top of the Bozeman Pass, where it is believed they entered into an argument. The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office quickly issued a Missing Endangered Person Advisory, calling on any member of the public with information to come forward.
The Bozeman Pass is situated between Bozeman and Livingston, and separates the Bridger and Gallatin mountain ranges—making this stretch of Interstate-90 a key corridor for travelers making their way across the state. The area is also popular with hikers and climbers.
While little information has been shared with the public in regard to the events that led up to the moment when Monica is thought to have vanished, the MEPA states, “There is a concern for Monica’s safety due to some of the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.” She has not been seen or heard from since the argument. No details have been shared as to what happened to her boyfriend, what vehicle they were driving, or whether any other parties may be involved.
The Second Disappearance Within A Fortnight
The city of Bozeman is home to Montana State University and lies nestled within the iconic Rocky Mountains, in close proximity to Yellowstone Park. Despite its small size and scenic surroundings, Bozeman has recently been no stranger to missing persons. Less than two weeks before Monica’s disappearance, a Missing Endangered Person Advisory was also issued for 14-year-old Jodi Parsons. Following an alert was raised when the teen was thought to have run away with the intention of hitchhiking to Oregon, she was happily found safe and well within 24 hours.
While a greater period of time has elapsed since the disappearance of Monica Rose Downs, there can be no doubt that those endeavoring to find her will be hoping for the same secure fate as Jodi. A recent analysis of missing persons cases in the state of Montana highlighted that there is no difference between the number of females and males who go missing, and that the vast majority—97.7% of the individuals within the three-year period examined—were located or recovered.
Monica Is Still Missing
On Saturday 26th June, just as the MEPA was set to expire, a local alert was widely distributed: “THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE IS TRANSMITTED AT THE REQUEST OF THE MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. THE MISSING ENDANGERED PERSON ADVISORY ISSUED FOR MONICA ROSE DOWNS HAS EXPIRED. MONICA IS STILL MISSING. IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON MONICA DOWNS, PLEASE CONTACT THE GALLATIN COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE AT 406-582-2100 OR CALL 911.”
Even though no new information has come to light within the public sphere, the search for Monica Rose Downs remains just as pressing, and readers are encouraged to be alert to any indication of her whereabouts or well-being.
More than 600,000 people go missing in the United States every year. Across all 50 states, across all age groups, no family is immune from their loved one going missing. While many of the missing people who are reported missing each year are eventually reported as safe, this epidemic of missing person cases can easily overwhelm the investigating jurisdiction, either due to lack of resources or lack of experience in missing person investigations. Regardless of the circumstances, when your loved one goes missing, hiring a missing person investigator to conduct a concurrent investigation with any official police investigation to ensure that important leads are not neglected or ignored.
Private investigators are often the intelligence professionals that families of missing persons select for consultation on their loved one’s case or to conduct an independent investigation. Many licensed private investigations have former investigative experience, either with law enforcement or in the practice of law. These professionals are able to apply official methodology used in official investigations without the bureaucratic red tape that can often hamper investigations by law enforcement. As long as the private investigator is licensed in the state in question, there is no barrier that would prevent them from following leads in the case out of state or even out of the country.
Private investigators who offer missing person location services may be able to find your missing loved one faster than local law enforcement. As stated previously, there may be resource or experience roadblocks that can prevent local law enforcement from making case progress, and unfortunately, this can lead to the case going cold very quickly. In a missing person investigation, the first 72 hours are the most important, because after that window has expired, crucial evidence can be lost, relevant witnesses can disappear, and otherwise hot leads may dry up entirely before local law enforcement has had a chance to investigate. As missing person investigators, private investigators do not have to wait to clear bureaucratic red tape, or adhere to jurisdictional issues that would otherwise prevent them from investigating. A private investigator may also have an edge over law enforcement when it comes to the cooperation of witnesses. It’s not uncommon in missing person cases for relevant witnesses to be reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement, typically out of fear of repercussions on behalf of the law. They claim to be ignorant of any information on the missing person in order to distance themselves from the situation and protect themselves from prosecution. Because they have no powers of arrest, relevant witnesses may be more likely to open up to private investigators. This leads to case progression that gets the missing person’s family that much closer to crucial context in their loved one’s disappearance.
Hiring a missing person investigator can give your family the investigative edge needed in finding your missing loved one. That is because a private investigator’s first loyalty is to their client, and not to any preservation of the law. The key to getting both local investigators and private investigators on the trail for a missing person is getting any and all information into the hands of those investigators so they can immediately start developing a plan for recovery. In the same vein as relevant witnesses, the family may hold back information that could be relevant to the investigation on the basis that they do not believe it’s relevant, because it’s embarrassing, or because they are also fearing repercussions at the behest of law enforcement or the legal system. Hiring a missing person investigator who is independent of the justice system can be the answer. If your family is in need of answers in a missing person case, please consider the location services of Lauth Investigations International. Our CEO, Thomas Lauth, is one of the nation’s leading experts in missing children and adults. Our team of investigators is staffed by former military and law enforcement personnel, and we carry a glowing A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Call 317-951-1100 today for a free quote on our services, or visit us online at www.lauthmissingpersons.com