A vigil was held Wednesday night in Fruitland, Idaho, as the community came together for Michael Vaughan, the missing local boy whose possible death, according to police, was concealed by a 35-year-old neighbor.
Prayer circle organizers asked the approximately 100 participants to bring a candle at Fruitland Community Park at 6 p.m. and pray for Michael, his family, law enforcement and search and rescue as long as the fate of the boy remains unknown.
Sarah Wondra, who lives with her husband just minutes from the boy’s childhood home in the rural community of Fruitland, was arrested on Nov. 12 and charged with failing to report a death to authorities. In Idaho, failure to report or delay reporting a death is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
The boy’s disappearance dates back to July 27, 2021, when a 5-year-old Michael Vaughan allegedly snuck out of his childhood home to play with his boyfriend unnoticed, while his mother Brandi Neal was at work and her husband was organizing dinner at home . Neal later learned that the child then went to the homes of three neighbors, according to news outlet News Nation Now.
In early reports on the investigation into the child’s disappearance, Fruitland police said Michael Vaughan, who would now be 6 years old, was likely abducted.
A “highly credible” tip led police to focus their suspect on Sarah Wondra and her husband Stacey Wondra a few weeks ago, Fruitland police chief JD Huff told local news outlet KTVB. A search warrant was issued on their property on November 11, and Sarah Wondra was arrested a day later.
Following her arrest, Sarah Wondra was virtually arraigned in Payette County Court on November 14 and later subjected to a mental capacity evaluation. On Tuesday, the 35-year-old woman was deemed mentally unfit to assist in her own defense and continue the court proceedings, so her court dates have been postponed.
Wondra has been admitted to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare as officials work to restore her mental competence on the day of her next status conference, scheduled for Dec. 23.
After Wondra’s arrest, Fruitland police excavated the backyard of Wondra’s childhood home, believing the boy’s body to be on the property, East Idaho News reports.
On Wednesday, officials finished processing the entire house and excavating the yard, but have not yet revealed what they found. A police press conference on the case is expected to take place mid-week next week.
News week has contacted the Fruitland PD for comment.
The location of Sarah Wondra’s husband Stacey Wondra remains unclear, although Lauren Matthias, the host of Hidden: A true crime podcast and a Vaughan family spokesperson told News Nation that both Wondras were in custody.
Sarah Wondra isn’t the only suspect the police are investigating, either.
Speaking to KTVB reporters on Monday, Huff said: “Our investigation has determined that Sarah Wondra may have been aware of Michael’s death and made no mention of it. We do not believe she is the only person aware of this. is, and we’ll be looking out for those people who could possibly be connected.”