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Bone found in SUV of mom and 2 kids who have been missing since 2002

Anthropologists believe they have found human remains in an SUV that was submerged in the Ohio River for nearly 20 years before it was discovered last week, the Indiana State Police announced Tuesday. The 1997 Nissan Pathfinder is at the center of a missing person investigation for a mother and her two children that began in 2002. 

Anthropologists with the University of Indianapolis and Indiana State Police Investigators searched the vehicle and found remains that they believe to be a human bone, state police said in a statement. The bone will now be sent to a lab for testing to confirm its origin. 

The Delhi Township Police Department began investigating the disappearance of 26-year-old Stephanie Van Nguyen and her two young children — 3-year-old John and 4-year-old Kristina — in April 2002, police said. 

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A photo of the vehicle recovered from the Ohio River.  Indiana State Police

Police said the information gathered at the time "indicated that Nguyen left a note that she was going to drive into the Ohio River." But the vehicle was never located — until police started looking into the case again in 2021. 

After searching the river with sonar technology, authorities said last week that they found the Pathfinder near Aurora, Indiana, approximately 50 feet deep and 300 feet from the bank of the river. The vehicle's registration plate confirmed it belonged to Nguyen. Dive teams recovered the vehicle and brought it to a secure location.


If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email info@nami.org.

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