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SUV of mom and her 2 kids missing since 2002 found in Ohio River

Search crews pulled from the Ohio River in Indiana an SUV that belonged to an Ohio mother who along with her two children went missing nearly two decades ago, authorities said Friday.

Side sonar scan technology led divers to the 1997 Nissan Pathfinder Thursday near Aurora in southeastern Indiana, Indiana State Police said Friday in a news release. The vehicle was registered to Stephanie Van Nguyen, who in 2002 disappeared with her 4-year-old daughter, Kristina, and 3-year-old son, John.

Nguyen, then 26, left a note that she was going to drive into the Ohio River, but her vehicle was not located at the time, police said.

Delhi Township, Ohio, police Lt. Joe Macaluso said Thursday that it was too early to tell if any bodies were in the SUV.

"The vehicle was transported to a secure location where Indiana State Police Investigators will examine the vehicle to determine if Nguyen or her two children were in the vehicle," state police said.

Searchers found the vehicle more than 50 feet below the river's surface and about 300 feet from the riverbank.

CBS affiliate WKRC-TV reports the Nguyen family was last seen on April 19, 2002, when a police officer stopped Nguyen in her green 1997 Nissan Pathfinder. The stop took place near a boat ramp on the Ohio River. Neither Nguyen nor her children have been seen since.

The search was part of an investigation into the family's disappearance that police in Delhi Township reopened about six months ago.

Macaluso said sonar scans of the river last week found three submerged vehicles.

"This has been a case we've actively pursued for many years. We did a cold case on it because of the anniversary. I'm happy for the family that we'll be able to, hopefully, give some closure," Macaluso said.

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

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