‘Everybody deserves to be found’

‘Everybody deserves to be found’

An unsolved 2002 missing persons case involving a Delhi Township mother and her two children is closer to a resolution after major breaks in the case in the last five days.Officials with the Indiana State Police announced Tuesday that a human bone has been located inside of a vehicle that was pulled from the Ohio River Thursday near Aurora, Indiana.”We didn’t know what to expect. The condition of the vehicle was in bad shape, obviously, being underwater for close to 20 years,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. Stephen Wheeles.The 1997 Nissan Pathfinder belonged to missing mother Stephanie Van Nguyen, who was 26 when she disappeared in April 2002. Her children, 4-year-old Kristina and 3-year-old John, were last seen alive in the backseat of her car.”The more time elapses sometimes the farther you get from being able to find a resolution and the answers that you want,” said Delhi Township Officer Heather Taylor.She took interest in the case around the time she joined the department in 2014, not knowing at the time it would become the biggest case of her career to date.Eight months ago, she asked to re-examine the case.”I wanted to see if with the improvements in technology and with things like that, if we could beat the clock to the 20th anniversary because everybody deserves to come home. Everybody deserves to be found,” she said.Investigators with Delhi police said Nguyen left a note saying she was going to drive into the Ohio River. She left money to her parents for funeral expenses.For the last 19 years, police searched the river but also spent significant time investigating the theory that the note may have been a ruse.Taylor knew time was not on her side. The evidence was two decades old. Many of the original investigators had retired. But Taylor was determined. She would have to be. “You’re not only looking for a needle in a haystack,” she said. “You’re looking for a needle in a haystack in a field of haystacks.”While working the case, she admits she thought about it constantly. “Some of it is just when you’re at home and your mind starts to wander and the what ifs. I actually kept a notepad beside my bed. I would write things down and then email people,” she said. “I thought about finally being able to tell this family ‘I never gave up.'”She described bringing closure to family members as a “one in a lifetime chance,” one that brought her pause on the riverbank last week. “All these agencies came together to stand on the bank of the river and watch Shaffer’s Towing give somebody two decades old answers,” she said. “My hat is off to Officer Taylor and what she’s done,” Delhi Township Chief Jim Howarth told WLWT Tuesday.Taylor credited a host of other agencies who assisted in the investigation and recovery of the vehicle, especially the Indiana conservation officers and the Hamilton County Police Association dive team.She said she hopes young girls in the community see possibility when they see a female police officer cracking cold cases.”You can do this,” she said. “It’s all in your reach.”

An unsolved 2002 missing persons case involving a Delhi Township mother and her two children is closer to a resolution after major breaks in the case in the last five days.

Officials with the Indiana State Police announced Tuesday that a human bone has been located inside of a vehicle that was pulled from the Ohio River Thursday near Aurora, Indiana.

“We didn’t know what to expect. The condition of the vehicle was in bad shape, obviously, being underwater for close to 20 years,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. Stephen Wheeles.

The 1997 Nissan Pathfinder belonged to missing mother Stephanie Van Nguyen, who was 26 when she disappeared in April 2002. Her children, 4-year-old Kristina and 3-year-old John, were last seen alive in the backseat of her car.

“The more time elapses sometimes the farther you get from being able to find a resolution and the answers that you want,” said Delhi Township Officer Heather Taylor.

She took interest in the case around the time she joined the department in 2014, not knowing at the time it would become the biggest case of her career to date.

Eight months ago, she asked to re-examine the case.

“I wanted to see if with the improvements in technology and with things like that, if we could beat the clock to the 20th anniversary because everybody deserves to come home. Everybody deserves to be found,” she said.

Investigators with Delhi police said Nguyen left a note saying she was going to drive into the Ohio River. She left money to her parents for funeral expenses.

For the last 19 years, police searched the river but also spent significant time investigating the theory that the note may have been a ruse.

Taylor knew time was not on her side. The evidence was two decades old. Many of the original investigators had retired. But Taylor was determined. She would have to be.

“You’re not only looking for a needle in a haystack,” she said. “You’re looking for a needle in a haystack in a field of haystacks.”

While working the case, she admits she thought about it constantly.

“Some of it is just when you’re at home and your mind starts to wander and the what ifs. I actually kept a notepad beside my bed. I would write things down and then email people,” she said. “I thought about finally being able to tell this family ‘I never gave up.'”

She described bringing closure to family members as a “one in a lifetime chance,” one that brought her pause on the riverbank last week.

“All these agencies came together to stand on the bank of the river and watch Shaffer’s Towing give somebody two decades old answers,” she said.

“My hat is off to Officer Taylor and what she’s done,” Delhi Township Chief Jim Howarth told WLWT Tuesday.

Taylor credited a host of other agencies who assisted in the investigation and recovery of the vehicle, especially the Indiana conservation officers and the Hamilton County Police Association dive team.

She said she hopes young girls in the community see possibility when they see a female police officer cracking cold cases.

“You can do this,” she said. “It’s all in your reach.”

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