AURORA, Indiana — When divers pulled a green Nissan Pathfinder out of the Ohio River on Thursday, Oct. 14, law enforcement said it was the end of a 20-year search in the disappearance of Stephanie Nguyen and her two children. It also brought closure to those who had worked at the Delhi Township Police Department when this case started in 2002.
"I received a call from another retired officer who wasn't even a detective," Delhi Twp. Police Lt. Joe Macaluso said. "(He) said that this case has always bothered him."
WCPO: Authorities discover SUV connected to 2002 missing family case
Nguyen disappeared in April of 2002. She left a goodbye letter at the home of her parents, along with jewelry and cash to pay for three funerals, and what police called a possible suicide note, with a plan to drive her car into the Ohio River to end her marriage and take the children from their father.
"It was a very emotional case, because it involved small children," retired Sgt. Bob Schwaeble told WCPO's Larry Seward on Friday. "I thought the only way that she might be found, or the vehicle found, was if they dredged the Ohio River.
"I'm just glad that it's finally closed. That we found the vehicle. We just got lucky."
The case never escaped the minds of those at the department. With the case approaching its 20th anniversary, Officer Heather Taylor considered a new search near Lesko Park in Aurora, Ind., around nine miles from Rising Sun Casino.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Hamilton County Police Association deployed side sonar, which gives horizontal views of river beds. In the Ohio River off Lesko Park, they discovered two cars and one SUV 55 feet below the river's surface. Divers were able to confirm that the license plate matched Nguyen's Nissan Pathfinder before the vehicle was pulled from the water on Thursday evening.
Indiana State Police are attempting to find and identify human remains in what was left of the SUV. Given the arduous task, they've given no timetable on when they'll be able to have answers. But investigators from the Delhi Twp. Police Department hope the discovery gives families and those in the community closure.
"People still care," Macaluso said. "I think I speak for most law enforcement, if not all law enforcement out there – we care, we want to find people, we want to find closure for family."