Vaughan went missing in July of 2021 when he was 5 years old. At the time, Vaughan’s mother was at work and his father was checking on his sister. Vaughan was seen going to houses in the neighborhood, presumably looking for kids to play with.
Police labeled the disappearance an abduction and said Vaughan was a rare case of kidnapping by a stranger. According to data from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, less than 1% of missing child cases are stranger abductions.
In November, police began excavating the backyard of Sarah and Stacey Wondra, searching for Vaughan’s remains. Sarah Wondra was later arrested and charged with failing to report a death. Stacey Wondra is currently in jail on unrelated weapons charges.
In a press conference on Thursday, police said that while Vaughan’s remains have not yet been found, they believe he was abducted and buried in the backyard, and that his remains were then moved to a different location.
Based on evidence from the Wondra home, police said they believe both Sarah and Stacey were involved in Vaughan’s abduction.
Police also identified two additional individuals they believe have firsthand knowledge of the crime, Brandon Shurtliff and Adrian Lucienne. Neither is currently in Idaho and police urged them to come forward with any information they have, noting the window for cooperation is closing.
Police said they do believe there are other people who have information about Vaughan’s abduction and death and urged them to come forward, stating they would pursue anyone withholding information or hindering the investigation.
Attorney Rachel Fiset told NewsNation it’s likely the police have very credible information and possibly physical evidence or witnesses confirming Vaughan’s death.
“She knows what happened to Michael,” Fiset said, explaining what the charges against Sara Wondra mean. “And she did not report it in time. She basically covered it up.”
In an initial court hearing, Sarah Wondra was found unfit to stand trial. She will face a judge again in 90 days for another evaluation.
Court documents show that Sarah Wondra denied killing Vaughan but said that God told her that her husband had killed the boy and buried him in the backyard. She later stated that her husband hadn’t killed the boy and claimed another man had killed Vaughan, and that Stacey Wondra had only buried the body.
“One has to be declared competent to stand trial, which means that they have to aid in their own defense,” Fiset explained. “And that’s what’s happening right now in court is they’re determining that she is not competent. What she’s saying will not aid her.”
Stacey Wondra has not been charged in the case, but Fiset said it isn’t unusual for police to charge people already in custody for other crimes.
Fiset said Sarah Wondra could face up to 10 years in jail for failing to report a death, but it is also possible the charge is just a start as police continue to investigate.
“It may lead to other more serious charges and crimes, that she was part of this cover-up or his death or in some way assisted her husband, if that’s what it shows,” she said.
Police said the investigation is active and ongoing, and they anticipate they will be searching other locations in hopes of locating Vaughan’s remains.