He Vanished Looking for Friends. Now, a Neighbor Arrested

Michael Vaughan disappeared in July 2021
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2022 3:05 AM CST
Neighbor Arrested in Disappearance of Boy, 5
This Missing Child poster, provided by the Fruitland, Idaho, Police Department, shows Michael Joseph Vaughan who has been missing since July 27, 2021.   (Fruitland Police Department via AP)

On July 27, 2021, Michael Vaughan, who had recently turned 5, slipped out of his house in Fruitland, Idaho, and started knocking on neighbors' doors, looking for older neighborhood kids to play with, his mom says. Now, a neighbor the family does not know has been arrested in his disappearance. Michael's mom, Brandi Neal, was at work and her husband was distracted by ordering dinner and checking on Michael's toddler sister before he noticed the boy was gone, as the Idaho Press reported last year, but neighbors later told them about their son going door to door looking for friends. The backyard of a home four minutes away from his is now being excavated after police received a tip that Michael could be buried there, according to a report in Nexstar Media Wire.

A lawyer for Michael's family says they do not know the people who live at the home, but that two of them are now detained, with one having been taken into custody months ago. Over the weekend Sarah Wondra, 35, was also arrested, NBC News reports, noting that her arrest came after a tip from someone else who lives in the house with her. She has been charged with a felony count of failing to notify or delaying notification of death to authorities. "Our investigation determined Sarah Wondra may have had knowledge of Michael’s death and failed to report it,” the police chief says. “We do not believe she is the only person that has knowledge of this, and we will be seeking out those people who could possibly be connected." Oddly, Law and Crime notes Wondra, 35, has posted TikTok videos in which Michael's missing poster can be seen on her fridge. (More Idaho stories.)

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