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Police confirm identity on human bone found in SUV recovered from Ohio River two decades after mom, 2 kids disappeared

Police confirm the vehicle found in Ohio River is one mom was driving with her 2 kids when they disappeared in 2002. They also found a human bone inside, ISP said.

AURORA, Ind. — Editor's note: Video attached is from October 2021 after the SUV was located.

Indiana State Police (ISP) said they've confirmed the identity of the person whose remains were found in a submerged SUV last fall.

Tuesday, ISP said that on Friday, January 7, 2022, the Dearborn County Coronerbreceived confirmation the human bone recovered belonged to Stephanie Van Nguyen. 

The investigation started on Thursday, October 14, 2021, after ISP and Delhi Township Police found the vehicle in the Ohio River. They said then it was connected to the disappearance of 26-year-old Stephanie Van Nguyen and her two children 4-year-old Kristina and 3-year-old John.

Nguyen was last known to be driving a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder and information gathered at the time she left a note indicating that she was going to drive into the river in 2002. However, her car was never recovered at the time.

Divers found and recovered the vehicle at a depth of over 50 feet and was approximately 300 feet from the bank of the river, police said.

According to ISP, the Delhi Township Police recently started looking into the case again and located her car through side sonar scan technology.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021 ISP confirmed it was the Pathfinder Nguyen was driving when she and her two children disappeared in 2002.

Credit: Indiana State Police
Thursday, October 14, 2021 | Stephanie Nguyen's 1997 Nissan Pathfinder recovered from Ohio River after she and her two kids disappeared in 2002.

Jeff Braun is an assistant police chief with the Delhi Police Department in Ohio, the agency which first investigated the case, said that tip about the note was one of few they had to go on.

"You don't just vanish from the face of the Earth without leaving some kind of trail. But it's essentially finding a needle in a haystack," Braun said. "We've obviously got several tips throughout the years, but none of them panned out."

Where are the children?

Since no other remains were found in the SUV, ISP said the children will continue to be listed as an open missing persons case until remains are found or, the family goes through the court system and declares them legally dead.

Another dive is planned to search for more remains once weather conditions improve, ISP said in a news release.

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