After nearly 28-years, the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office and Natchitoches Parish Coroner’s Office may finally give peace and closure to the family of Kara E. Vaughn.
On Wednesday, March 24, the Natchitoches Parish Coroner’s Office contacted the NPSO reporting the LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services Lab in Baton Rouge confirmed the remains recovered from a vehicle submerged in Cane River March 15 are that of Kara E. Vaughn of Natchitoches.
Family members reported Vaughn, a diabetic, left their Point Place home between 8-9 p.m. that night in a white 1978 Honda Civic without her medication and less than $10 in cash.
She never returned home.
Natchitoches Sheriff’s detectives began an investigation into her disappearance, interviewed her family and several close friends at the time but were unable to develop any leads of her whereabouts.
Detectives entered Vaughn and her vehicle into the National Crime Information Center as a missing person. DNA profiles were collected from family members and provided to the LSU FACES Lab in Baton Rouge, which also manages the Louisiana Repository for Unidentified and Missing Persons Information Project.
Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Deputies searched Cane River multiple times but were unable to find or identify any signs of the vehicle. In 2007, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office offered assistance with new special sonar equipment to search the river.
The search again provided no clues.
Then in February 2021, NPSO deputies were notified by Ben Abraham of the Northwestern State University Fishing Team and his friend, Zack Gagnard, that while fishing they observed a possible vehicle on their fish finder. The car was submerged in Cane River approximately 1.2 miles north of the Shell Beach Bridge, close to the 1300 block of Bermuda Road.
NPSO dive team members waited for weather conditions to improve.
On Friday, March 12, dive members entered Cane River and located what they believed to be a vehicle in approximately 10-12 feet of water.
Maj. Doug Rachal contacted Lt. Ron Johnson with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit and Dive Team to assist in the examination and recovery.
On Monday, March 15, Calcasieu Sheriff’s Divers entered the water at approximately 10 a.m. and found what appeared to be a Honda Civic with all windows rolled up.
Divers made entry and discovered human skeletal remains inside the vehicle. A laminated identification card and photograph of Kara Vaughn and other documents were found inside the vehicle in surprisingly legible condition.
Divers then began the process of extracting the remains with dignity and respect from the vehicle and taking them to shore for evidence collection.
The Natchitoches Parish Coroner’s Office responded to the scene.
The remains where transported by NPSO detectives to the LSU FACES Lab in Baton Rouge for dental record and DNA comparison.
The process then shifted to extracting the vehicle from the water. Deputies were concerned with the condition of the vehicle, therefore the flotation devices were used to safely remove it for evidence. Calcasieu deputies equipped with special flotation bags placed themunder the vehicle, then inflated them to raise it to the surface.
Deputies towed the flotation bags and vehicle to a boat ramp approximately a quarter mile south of the scene. It was removed and transported to an undisclosed location as evidence.
Sheriff Stuart Wright spoke with former CNN Headline News anchor Lyn Vaughn, sister of Kara Vaughn, that morning and extended his condolences to the Vaughn family.
LSU F.A.C.E.S Lab confirms Vaughn was identified through dental records comparison.
Upon completion of the examination, the remains will be released to the family for proper burial.
Sheriff Wright thanked Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso, Lt. Ron Johnson the CPSO Dive Team, NPSO Dive Team and all that took part and assisted in the recovery operation.
He thanks Abraham and Gagnard for reporting their findings. That led to the recovery of Vaughn’s remains and closure of a 28-year-old missing persons case in Natchitoches Parish.
“Unfortunately the outcome did not come out as we expected for Kara but at least the family has some peace and closure now,” said Wright.“We extend our condolences to the Vaughn family.”