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.
The search for a six-year-old girl from South Carolina is
over after police identified the remains of missing Faye Swetlik, who
disappeared while she played in her family’s front yard. After viewing the
coroner’s report, authorities have announced that they are treating Faye’s
death as a homicide—no arrests have yet been made.
The Cayce Department of Public Safety’s director, Byron
told the media, “As this community has been working hard to find Faye and
bring her home safely, we wanted to let you know as soon as possible.
Snellgrove went on to say, “We also need to inform you that during the course
of our investigation, a deceased male was located in the Churchill Heights
neighborhood. That investigation has just begun.” It is unclear at this point
whether or not the aforementioned deceased male is in any way related to Faye
Swetlik’s missing persons case.
The investigation only began 5 days ago, when Faye disappeared from her family’s front yard shortly after returning home from school. Faye’s mother was home at the time of the disappearance. Friends and family were shocked to hear of Faye’s disappearance, and Ruth Collins, her grandmother, told the local television station WTVD, “I want my baby back. We gotta find her.”
An Amber Alert was never issued for Faye, because
authorities had no reason to believe the girl had been kidnapped, as opposed to
walking out of her yard of her own accord, or other circumstances. Investigators
assigned to Faye’s missing person case have released photos of two vehicles who
were in the area of the Churchill Heights neighborhood subdivision, denoting
that the drivers may have crucial information about the case.
The case has garnered national
media attention, with FBI officials going door to door to canvass the
neighborhood in search of answers. On the day Faye’s remains were discovered in
her neighborhood, Vice President Mike Pence was also in South Carolina, having
stopped in the Midlands. When he addressed cadets at The Citadel in Charleston,
he stated the following, “And as your Vice President, and as a father, let me
say, we were deeply saddened to receive word this afternoon that the remains of
Faye Swetlik, a six-year-old girl who went missing from her parents’ front
yard, just three days ago, has been found.”
Pence went on to say that he’d spoken with the FBI’s Director,
Christopher Wray, and the governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, to ensure
them that the full arsenal of resources held by the federal government would be
made available to investigators in pursuit of answers. “But I would just urge
everyone in South Carolina, “ Pence said, “hug your kids today. And keep this little
girl and her family and her community in your prayers.”
The case is not over for investigators and the Faye Swetlik
hotline is still open for anyone with information that could be useful in the homicide
investigation. Authorities are asking that anyone with information call (803)
Montana is a Rocky Mountain state that borders Canada and often referred to as “Big Sky Country” with numerous spectacular mountain ranges, western prairie terrain, and the badlands. Best known as the “Crown of the Planet,” Montana is the home of the majestic Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Beartooth Highway, and Big Sky Resort with tourism being the fastest growing sector.
Montana has changed little over time with an abundance of wildlife and breathtaking views. A place where Buffalo still roam the plains.
Crow Nation is located in south central Montana bordering Wyoming on the south, and its northwestern boundary approximately 10 miles from Billings. There lives a federally recognized tribe called the “Apsaalooke” which means “children of the large-beaked bird.” White men later misinterpreted the word as “crow.”
On the horizon, a highway sign is the only thing that one sees on the desolate strip of Interstate 90, that marks the entrance to the sovereign Native American Territory of the Crow Tribe. There are no gas stations, convenience stores or roadside attractions.
The Crow Nation is the largest of seven tribal lands, with the territory of 2.3 million acres. With a vast amount of ranch ground, the reservation has three enormous mountain ranges, two major rivers, and a dozen tributaries.
The Crow and Northern Cheyenne are both in close proximity to two major cities attracting crime, and bordering state and federal parks. Like each of the seven federally acknowledged Native American reservations in Montana and the nine tribes that call the land home, the Crow and Northern Cheyenne share centuries worth of challenges with a contentious history, including many strange disappearances and murders.
Problem of Indigenous Disappearances
Montana’s Indian Country is amid an epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous people, mostly women, and girls. The Billings Gazette reported that more than a dozen indigenous women went missing during 2018, and indigenous women nationwide are being killed or trafficked at rates that are much higher than the national average of non-indigenous women.
According to the state Department of Justice (DOJ), more than 5,400 reports of missing people have been filed in Montana during the past three years. Most missing person cases are closed within a day or two.
However, while Native Americans make up only 6.7 percent of Montana’s population, an unbelievable 26 percent of Montana’s missing person reports are Native American’s who have been missing for over a month.
When missing person reports are taken by police, they enter the data into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a national database at the FBI that cross-references the missing person’s description with unidentified persons (alive and deceased). The database also makes the person’s information available to other law enforcement and Coroners nationwide.
Once entered into NCIC, if the missing person is determined to be in imminent danger, police can also issue a statewide alert, similar to the AMBER Alert that is distributed to local media and text messages to anyone in the region that has a mobile phone. Failing that criteria, police can also issue a Missing Endangered Person alert, which is similarly sent out to the public.
“One thousand plus missing person reports generated each year in Montana preclude the state from issuing alerts unless the person reasonably appears to be in danger,” said DOJ spokesman John Barnes.
The crisis is often exacerbated by several factors. Many reservations are in very rural areas with little access to the Internet or cell phone service. Tribal law enforcement is understaffed to oversee such large areas of land to initiate searches and properly investigate disappearances. Also, many of the missing are part of a marginal population so the cases don’t get much national attention.
When disappearances follow one after another, the Crow tribe is often forced to turn to outside law enforcement for help, but the help doesn’t appear to happen fast enough.
In 2008, the Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse, within DOJ, implemented the first-ever searchable online database that is updated in real-time and includes a description of the missing person and photos.
Even with new statewide advancements in raising awareness of missing persons, for the families whose loved ones are missing, the law enforcement response can sometimes feel underwhelming.
The Disappearance of Freda Knows His Gun
In October 2016, down on her luck, Freda Knows His Gun, 34, was 740 miles away from home and needed money. She went to the Walmart in Kennewick, Washington, to call a friend to ask for an online money transfer to get home, and promised to return to the Montana Crow Tribe in time to take her children trick-or-treating for Halloween.
Despite an error in Freda’s name that caused a slight delay, within fifteen minutes the money arrived. However, Freda was nowhere to be found, even though she had been waiting at the Walmart customer service counter.
Aldean Good Luck, Freda’s cousin, told the Billings Gazette, “Her friend called and corrected the name and it wasn’t even fifteen minutes when she called Freda back and her phone was no longer working.”
It’s hard to determine what may have happened to Freda, but her family and three children continue to wait, overcome with the ambiguity of the loss.
It was hard to know who to turn to the family told the Billings Gazette. What complicated matters is she was last seen in Washington but a resident of Montana. The Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement within the Crow Agency registered Freda as a missing person.
The FBI eventually became involved in Freda’s case, but there have only been dead ends.
According to Freda’s sister Frances Knows His Gun, the FBI called and asked her if she had ever heard of the drug “hot shot” and explained that once you take it you forget who you are. She responded she had never heard of it and that was the last time she heard from them.
Freda’s mother Barbara Susan Stewart is now raising Freda’s three children with the help of other family members. One daughter is now in high school, another getting braces, and many life moments are passing without their mother.
Her forehead permanently creased with worry, “I would know in my womb if she was dead, Barbara told Aljazeera. “I don’t know if she is mad at me, but it doesn’t matter. She needs to come back. Her children need her. I can’t give them what they need.”
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) movement is big in Canada and the United States and working to raise awareness and change laws pertaining to missing indigenous women. However, critics wonder why missing men are not getting as much attention.
Truth is nobody knows how many indigenous men and women are truly missing and that is part of the larger problem.
Contributors stem from centuries of discrimination, the lack of accurate record-keeping, jurisdictional issues and historical laws that collide with demands of modern-day law enforcement.
To raise awareness, several protest marches, social media outreach, and community-building programs have been organized to ensure missing persons are never forgotten.
Not Invisible Act and Savannah’s Act
A bill addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women, the Not Invisible Act is now under consideration by the House and Senate. The legislation was introduced in the House on April 2, 2019, by Haaland, a member of the Pueblo Nation of Laguna, Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin; and Cole, a member of the Cherokee Nation. The bill is building steam.
According to CBS News, the bill would create an advisory committee comprised of law enforcement, tribal leaders, survivors, and family members of the victims, to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and of Justice on how to address this crisis. It would also designate an official within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to improve violent crime prevention efforts across federal agencies. It is expected to pass with no opposition.
The Not Invisible Act compliments Savanah’s Act introduced to Congress on January 25, 2019. The bill will direct DOJ to review, revise, and develop law enforcement protocols to address missing and murdered Indians to include: providing training to law enforcement; implement a system to notify citizen of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS); conduct outreach; develop guidelines specific to missing and murdered Indians; provide technical assistance to Indian tribes; and report statistics. Savannah’s act is also expected to pass without opposition.
However, with each agonizing day that passes, for families of the missing, it’s simple. Missing persons have become an epidemic and their loved ones need help sooner than later.
Tragedies can affect communities and
society as a whole. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference
that impacts us all.
It was 24 years ago, on June 9, 1995,
that a little girl vanished at a Little League baseball game in the small town
of Alma, Ark., within the River Valley at the edge of the majestic Ozark
Mountains. Beautiful Morgan Chauntel Nick, age 6, with
long blonde hair and blue eyes has not been seen since.
Morgan Nick is the eldest of three other children. She
loved cats and according to her mother Colleen Nick, she was a shy little girl.
A Girl Scout, Morgan loved bubble gum and said she wanted to be a doctor or a
circus performer when she grew up.
The evening of her disappearance, a friend of the Nick
family had invited them to a baseball game about 30 minutes away. Colleen told
Dateline; the game started late at approximately 9:00 p.m. that night.
Morgan sat in the bleachers with her mom nearly the
entirety of the game but towards the end, two kids, a boy and a girl, a few
years older than Morgan, asked if Morgan could go catch fireflies with them.
Colleen recalls initially telling Morgan no, but other
parents told the worried mother that the kids play in the parking lot all of
the time and would be safe.
Colleen ended up telling Morgan she could go play with
the other children. “She threw her arms around my neck, kissed my cheek, then
the kids all ran out to the parking lot,” said Colleen. “I could turn my head
and see she was right there in sight. I checked on them three or four times.”
At the end of the baseball game, Colleen watched as
the team walked off the field, momentarily looking away from Morgan who was
playing behind the bleachers. When she turned around, she could see the two
other children, but Morgan was no longer with them.
Colleen asked the children where Morgan was, and they
told her Morgan was at her car emptying sand out of her shoes. “Already, when I
couldn’t see Morgan, my heart started beating really fast,” Colleen said in a
Dateline interview. “We were somewhere we hadn’t been before. She wouldn’t go
anywhere by herself, and there wasn’t even anywhere to go,” Colleen said.
“There was no concession stands, no bathrooms.”
Confusion and panic set in for Colleen.
Within minutes a spectator called the police to report
Morgan missing. Police responded within six minutes.
Chief Russell White of the Alma Police Department told
Dateline that the initial officer on the scene immediately suspected “we might
have a bigger problem.” “They did have a lot of manpower or resources, but they
did a whole lot right that first night,” Colleen said.
“The other two kids that were playing with Morgan
separately told the police about a creepy man in a red pick-up truck with a
white camper shell on the back,” Colleen said.
Authorities immediately began an intensive
“We reached out for help from local agencies, the
state police, the FBI,” Chief White said. “We were running a pretty big crew.
The FBI brought in lots of extra people and resources and we did not have, like
a computer system that could handle this kind of case, which helped
According to Colleen, Morgan’s case files fill up an
entire room at the police department. “We have tons of tips coming in every
week,” Chief White said. “It’s very unusual for a 24-year-old case to still
have so many leads.”
Despite the thousands of leads received in Morgan’s
case, she remains missing.
A Mother Fights Back
“She’s not a number. She’s not a statistic. She’s not
a case file. She is a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a friend. And she is
someone worth fighting for,” Colleen told Dateline. “If you’re not on the front
line fighting for your daughter, no one else will. So, it is my job to make
sure she never gets lost. Until someone can prove to me that Morgan is not
coming home, then I am going to fight for her.”
In the years following Morgan’s disappearance, Colleen
started the Morgan
Nick Foundation to help prevent other families from going
through what she has experienced, to raise awareness of other missing children,
and educate the public on safety for children. The foundation also provides
crucial support to other families of missing children.
Over the years Colleen has received a countless number
of recognitions and awards from the FBI, state of Arkansas, to the
International Homicide Investigator’s Association, for her work throughout the
state of Arkansas throughout the country.
“When something so tragic happens to your child, there
is a need to do something of great value,” said Colleen. “We are trying to fill
the gap that wasn’t filled when we needed it the most.”
24 years later, Colleen
continues to selflessly work within her community and nationwide to the benefit
of families and children throughout the country.
The National Impact of John Walsh
We often forget there is a personal story behind many
monumental efforts in this nation and John Walsh is certainly the epitome.
Adam Walsh, age 6, was a little boy whose
disappearance and murder changed the way society looked at missing children.
On the afternoon of July 27, 1981, Adam’s mother took
him shopping at a local mall in Hollywood, Fla. Reve Walsh had wanted to
inquire about the price of a lamp at the Sears department store.
Momentarily, Reve left Adam at an Atari video game
display where several other little boys were taking turns playing on the
display. When Reve returned, she couldn’t find Adam or the other boys and was
told by the store manager that the security guard had asked them all to leave
Adam was paged over the intercom as his mother
searched the store and mall for about an hour. She then called the Hollywood
Police Department at approximately 1:55 p.m. to report Adam missing.
Tragically, on August 10, 1981, a severed head of a
child was found in a drainage canal alongside the Florida Turnpike in Vero
Beach, about 130 miles from Hollywood. It was confirmed it was Adam. His body
has never been found.
Early on, Adam’s parents John and Reve Walsh were
critical of the police investigation which led to John’s anti-crime activism
and the creation of America’s Most Wanted which he is well known for.
Lesser known is his impact on laws and organizations
for missing children. During the 1980s, John and other child advocates lobbied Congress
to pass a law that would protect missing children and educate the public on the
importance of child safety resulting in the Missing Children’s Assistance Act
and the first national clearinghouse of information for missing children.
Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, NCMEC has
regional office in California, Florida, New York and Texas.
According to NCMEC, in 2018 there were 424,066 entries
of missing children in the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
35 years later, NCMEC provides support to thousands of
families of missing children each year, missing children’s case management,
provides training to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and
offers numerous educational programs that fight child exploitation, sex
trafficking, and provides critical information to keep our children safe.
Black & Missing Foundation
Tamika Huston vanished into thin air on or around May
27, 2004, from Spartanburg, S.C. and subsequently found murdered.
Spartanburg was Derrica Wilson’s hometown and she recalls
watching as Tamika’s family struggled to gain any media coverage on a local or
national level while Tamika was missing. A few months later, Natalee Holloway –
a white woman – went missing and dominated news headlines, becoming a household
“It was heartbreaking to see the difference in the
media attention these two cases were getting,” Derrica told Jet Magazine.
Derrica and her sister-in-law Natalie decided to team
up to ensure other families did not face the obscurity that Tamika’s family had
experienced. “We combined our professional backgrounds – mine in law
enforcement and Natalie’s in media – to create an organization that joins the
very important elements in the field of missing persons,” said Derrica.
Founded in 2008, a veteran law enforcement official
and a public relations specialist began channeling their skills for a greater
Eleven years later, Black and Missing
Foundation has become the primary voice for minority missing
providing a platform of hope for the overwhelming number of missing persons of
On the afternoon of January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber
Hagerman was last seen riding her bike in a parking lot near her home in
Arlington, Texas. A witness reported seeing a man in a black, flat-bed truck
snatch Amber from her bicycle.
Four days later, Amber’s body was found in a creek
approximately 3.2 miles from her home. Her murder remains unsolved.
Area residents were outraged and began calling radio
and television stations to vent their anger and to also offer suggestions to
prevent such crimes in the future. One resident, Diana Simone suggested
utilizing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to notify the public when a child
has been abducted so the public could also assist in the search. Simone
followed up with a letter, with her only request to ensure the program would be
dedicated to Amber Hagerman.
The program was eventually taken to NCMEC with a
request to implement a national initiative that would eventually become known
as the AMBER Alert.
What began as a local effort in the area of the Dallas-Fort Worth area has
grown into a seamless system used by every state in the country. Since the
inception of the program in 1996, through December 31, 2018, 956 children have
been safely recovered specifically as a result of an AMBER Alert being issued.
so tragic happens to your child, there is a need to do something of great
value,” as Colleen said. “We are trying to fill the gap that wasn’t filled when
we needed it the most.” Most certainly, the advancements made in the last 35
years are proof the efforts of one person can make a difference.
(Sarah Galloway, 38, has Down Syndrome and went missing from Tucson, Ariz., on March 21, 2019.)
On March 21, 2019, Sherry Galloway, 66, got out of the shower and, while sitting on her bed, “realized I didn’t hear Sarah,” she said. She ran to the door where Sarah had been sitting on the porch and looked down the road that leads away from the residence Galloway shares with her daughter in the community of Picture Rocks, outside of Tucson, Ariz. “My first thought was that she had just walked further down the road than she was allowed,” says Galloway. “I got in the car and drove down the road. No Sarah. I was freaking out. Within about 10 minutes, we’d called 911.”
Sarah, 38, has Down Syndrome, and is a “happy go lucky” young woman who loves to talk about daily events that occurred at her daytime program for adults with disabilities and has pretend conversations with her friends.
Sarah functions at the level of an 8-year-old child. At age 8, Sarah joined the Galloway family, along with five other siblings, and was officially adopted at age 12.
(Police conducted foot, canine and aerial searches of the desert near the home of Sherry Galloway in the Picture Rocks community approximately 30 minutes from Tucson, Ariz.)
The day Sarah vanished, police and volunteers canvassed the area on foot, by search vehicle, and used K-9 but could not find a trace of Sarah. Police even partnered with the Department of Homeland Security conducting searches by helicopter.
“The police did do their dog search and they say they lost the scent right at the end of the driveway,” said Galloway. “I do believe she was picked up that morning. I don’t know by who, and I can’t figure out why.”
“She’s a vulnerable adult and we’re doing everything we can to locate her,” said spokesman Deputy Daniel Jelineo of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. “We’re looking to the public to supply any tips they have.”
According to Galloway, Sarah had been agitated prior to her disappearance. “It was really weird,” she said. “She was fantasizing about someone – an acquaintance – being her husband, telling me that this guy was going to do bad things to me. We didn’t know where that was coming from or what to think,” Galloway added.
“She’s super friendly,” Galloway told People Magazine. “No one is a stranger to her. But she needs supervision to care for herself. She cannot operate a cell phone.”
(Sarah has been missing since March 2019 from Tucson, Ariz., and described as outgoing with a sunny personality.)
According to Galloway, Sarah attends a day program for people with disabilities which she enjoys. She loves to help around the house and loves to color princesses in coloring books like Frozen. She also loves to role play movie and TV characters with her mother.
“I miss having her come in and kiss me in the morning, said Galloway who has spent months waiting in for her daughter. “I miss having her kiss me at night before she went to bed.”
Galloway has spent months replaying the delusions her daughter was experiencing right before she disappeared.
“But she changed. She changed dramatically. She wouldn’t listen to anything I’d say; she wouldn’t get up and go anywhere with me,” Galloway told KGUN 9 TV. “She was running outside doing strange things, throwing rocks at my windows, saying she was going to break my trailer, going up to the car that her and her boyfriend, husband, were going to steal and when you ask her who her husband is, she would name him and I don’t think I’m allowed to name him on camera so, I just keep my thoughts to myself because he had an alibi.”
In the meantime, Pima County Sheriff’s Department says they continue to investigate any and all leads related to Sarah’s disappearance.
Thomas Lauth is a private investigator from Lauth Investigations International based in Indianapolis, Ind. Lauth and has worked missing adult cases for over 25 years and very familiar with the setbacks police may be experiencing with Sarah’s case. “This case is particularly concerning because we are dealing with an individual who has diminished mental capacity, who is also very friendly,” says Lauth. “We also face challenges because the media’s interest has been short-lived unlike other high-profile disappearances of other women Sarah’s age.”
Lauth is concerned the media has not covered the case providing new updates like other nationally known cases of young women in the country. “We need information from the public and that only happens when there is consistent coverage of a case in the public eye,” said Lauth. “Sadly, it is far too common that women with disabilities get less attention than the young, beautiful college student.”
Galloway says she knows her daughter is out there somewhere, and she won’t give up until she is found. “I will find peace, yes, when that kid is back in my arms safe,” says Galloway. “I don’t care if it’s here on earth or if it’s in heaven. I will find peace as long as she’s with me.”
Stats & Facts
According to the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC), there were 87,608 active missing person cases as of May 31, 2018. That number tends not to fluctuate significantly and approximately 90,000 people is an average count of missing persons on any given day.
When law enforcement takes a missing person report the descriptive information and classification is entered into the NCIC computer database. There are six categories used in NCIC.
As of May 31, 2018, the numbers below reflect active missing person cases in each classification used by law enforcement to describe the circumstances of each missing person’s disappearance.
“When an adult with disabilities goes missing, police and family members face an especially difficult time getting and maintaining public awareness of the case,” says Lauth.
While Amber Alerts are used for endangered children who are reported missing, the Silver Alert is used for seniors who go missing that may have diminished mental capacity, such as someone with Alzheimer’s. However, an alert does not exist for cases like Sarah Galloway.
“Missing adults typically receive less media attention in comparison to children and can be due to age, race, gender and even socioeconomic status,” says Lauth. “Sadly, cases that do receive a lot of media attention tend to be cases where the details of the disappearance are dramatic and sensational and the missing person is young, white, and beautiful.”
Sarah is 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 100 lbs. She has brown hair and brown eyes that are crossed. She has visible overbite and scars on her fingers. The morning she vanished she was wearing a grey sweater, a red T-shirt and black pants.
If you have any information about the disappearance of Sarah Galloway, please call Tucson Police Department at 520-88-CRIME (27463) or 520-351-4900.