(NewsNation) — After an entire year of searching for missing 5-year-old Michael Vaughan, there are no answers. The Fruitland, Idaho child’s 2021 disappearance garnered nationwide attention and support.
“We haven’t stopped,” Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff said. “Every day, we have unfinished business. And I’ll tell you that every day is an anniversary of the disappearance of Michael Vaughan.”
Today, Michael would be 6 years old. His parents are grieving another summer without him — a summer they say should be spent playing and camping as a family.
Last July, Michael was at home with this dad and baby sister while his mom was at work. Family members say he walked out to find neighborhood kids to play with.
Last winter, Michael’s mom Brandi Neal invited NewsNation to their Idaho home and walked us through her son’s last moments there.
“He would have come out of the garage,” she said. “The front door is pretty hard to get out of and you can hear that opening.”
At the time, his dad Tyler declined to speak with us. But this week, that changed. The couple sat down together for their first national TV interview.
“It doesn’t feel like a year. It’s been an eternity,” Neal said. “He (Michael) is pure joy, love, excitement, much excitement, energy, lots of energy. You can’t not fall in love with him.”
NewsNation asked why Tyler Vaughan hasn’t spoken much to media outlets.
He replied: “Because I was the one at home! I feel like f***ing sh**.”
He later added: “Because I was the responsible party. I don’t like being in the public eye at all. It’s because to some extent, I blame myself.”
For most of the afternoon, Tyler says Michael played with his monster trucks and Nintendo Switch. Around dinner time, Tyler says he ordered a pizza and went down the hall to change the baby’s diaper. When he came back out, Michael wasn’t there.
He says he immediately “searched the house, searched the backyard, the front yard, jumped in my van — called Brandi.”
Tyler says he raced around the neighborhood and called 911.
The Fruitland police, Payette police and Payette County deputies and community members searched through the night for the missing child.
In the last year, more than 3,000 acres and a nearby river have been searched. No suspects have been named, but authorities say they have persons of interest. They include a man seen in newly released photos who police say was walking nearby when Michael went missing.
To this day, nobody has been cleared in the investigation, including Tyler and Brandi.
“Law enforcement and God knows our truth. And we’ll stand firm and stand strong,” Brandi said.
Fruitland police confirmed the couple has cooperated with the investigation.
Tyler and Brandi say they still feel like their son is alive and coming home. When asked what justice would look like in their eyes, Brandi says if Michael is returned safe, she would try for forgiveness. Tyler said he just wants his boy home and legal punishment would take care of the rest.