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Patty Brightwell Vaughan

From San Antonio Express search archives

December 6, 2003

DPS highlights missing woman

By Jeorge Zarazua
San Antonio Express-News

Web Posted : 12/06/2003 12:00 AM

LA VERNIA — The pain and agony is evident on Patsy Wallace's face.
Her daughter, Patty Vaughan, hasn't been seen since Christmas Day in 1996. Vaughan was 32 then.

Wallace, 60, apologized as she held her hands to her face. The past seven years have taken their toll, but she refuses to let go.

"I'll never give up," she said of her quest to find Vaughan. "We will not give up hope."

Wallace, who now lives in San Antonio, is buoyed by the Department of Public Safety's announcement this week that it would revisit Vaughan's case.

Her disappearance is among the agency's new Top 10 missing-person cases being featured in a poster to be distributed statewide.

The Top 10 poster is part of the department's Project FINDME, which highlights missing people whose cases indicate the possibility of foul play.

"It's well placed, believe me," said Lynn Ellison, the Wilson County district attorney, of Vaughan's inclusion on the list.

Vaughan last was seen driving away from her home on Oak Park Road just inside the Bexar-Wilson county line on the evening of Dec. 25, 1996. Her bluish-gray Dodge Caravan was found abandoned the next day on the shoulder of Loop 1604, about two miles west of Interstate 37, with its left front tire deflated.

Officers later determined the air had been purposely released from the tire. Trace amounts of blood later were found inside the van and at Vaughan's home.

"The faces on this poster are crying out for justice. We believe that someone, somewhere, has information that could help investigators with information that could solve these disappearances," said Col. Thomas A. Davis Jr., director of the DPS, in a statement.

Wallace is convinced her daughter was killed. Her search is for her body.

"Finding Patty's body will give us all some peace," she said. "It hurts like hell, but we know she's dead."

Full story

December 28, 1996

Chopper, dogs help in search for woman

Dan Alder Express-News Staff Writer

Police used a helicopter and tracking dogs from the Heidi Search Center on Friday to look for a 33-year-old East Bexar County woman missing since Christmas Day.

Patty Vaughan's family reported her missing Thursday night after finding her light-blue Ford Aerostar van earlier that day parked on the side of a road south of San Antonio with a flat tire.

The van was found on Loop 1604 at Farm Road 1937, five miles from the electronics company where Vaughan failed to show up for work Thursday morning, family members said. Sgt. Tom Akeroyd of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office said a tracking dog led officers from the spot where the van was found to a pond on a ranch about two miles to the west. He said the search would resume Saturday morning with a dive team searching or dragging the pond. ``Right now, we are treating this as a missing

[View the full-text article, approx. 2 printed pages, 349 words]

December 29, 1996

Search for missing mom halted

Anita McDivitt Express-News Staff Writer

The search for Patty Vaughan, the 32-year-old mother of three who left her eastern Bexar County home Christmas Day and has not been seen since, was called off Saturday.

Bexar County sheriff's officials said they would not resume searching for Vaughan near where her employer found her light-blue Ford Aerostar van on Loop 1604 and Farm Road 1937 Friday.

A team of tracking dogs with items from Vaughan's closet led searchers to a small pond on a ranch about two miles away from where the van was found in southern Bexar County. Searchers dragged the pond, which was about 50 feet wide and 3 feet deep, and found nothing Saturday morning. Groups of family members, friends and volunteers continued searching on horseback, in four-wheel vehicles and on foot for Vaughan until a light fog descended over the search area. By dusk, the Sheriff's Department called off the search, although family members

[View the full-text article, approx. 3 printed pages, 682 words]

January 3, 1997

Carpet sample from van being tested for blood

Jaime Castillo Express-News Staff Writer

Sheriff's investigators have sent a carpet sample from a missing woman's van to a crime lab after a preliminary test indicated the possible presence of blood.

The find turned up during a routine chemical test earlier this week on the blue-gray Ford Aerostar driven by 32-year-old Patty Vaughan who disappeared Christmas Day, sheriff's Capt. Kenneth Bilhartz said.

Vaughan's employer discovered the abandoned van Dec. 26 on Loop 1604, about three miles west of Interstate 37, after she failed to show up for work the day before. The mother of three has not been heard from since. Bilhartz said investigators sprayed the interior of the vehicle with a chemical called Luminol, which illuminates in the dark when in contact with blood and other chemicals. A positive result showed up on a small section of the van's carpeting, he said. ``All I can tell you is that we got a reaction. We cut

[View the full-text article, approx. 2 printed pages, 372 words]

January 5, 1997

Searchers find fatigue, frustration

Thomas Edwards Express-News Staff Writer

As the sun struggled to burn through the mist early Saturday, volunteers huddled in a circle, holding hands and praying for another kind of light to help them in their search for a missing mother of three.

The volunteers' hopes - and fears - were evident in the solemn faces and quiet murmurs of about 200 gathered outside the Lone Oak Volunteer Fire Department to begin a sunrise-to-sunset search in eastern Bexar County for Patty Vaughan, 32, who last was seen Christmas Day.

``I know God is with her. She loved God. She was a good person,'' said Susan Urban after leading the prayer. Urban and some of the other searchers are members of La Vernia United Methodist Church where Vaughan is a member of the choir. The search Saturday was organized by the Heidi Search Center. Aided by ham radio operators, ultra-light aircraft pilots, bloodhounds, news helicopters, sheriff's deputies, mounted patrols

[View the full-text article, approx. 3 printed pages, 719 words]

January 25, 1997

Blood taken in Vaughan probe - Missing woman's family gives samples

Anita McDivitt Express-News Staff Writer

Blood samples have been taken from the husband and three children of a Wilson County woman missing since Christmas, after investigators found traces of blood in her abandoned vehicle and home.

The samples, which were drawn Jan. 17 at a hospital in Wilson County, will be used by investigators to determine whether the blood found in the van and master bedroom of the house in Adkins is that of 32-year-old Patty Vaughan.

Vaughan's bluish-gray Dodge Caravan was found Dec. 26 with a flat tire and stopped on the shoulder of Loop 1604 at Farm Road 1937, five miles from her place of employment. Since then, investigators have found several indications of foul play, leading them to obtain a search warrant Jan. 17 from a Wilson County judge. The judge ordered Jerry Ray Vaughan, 38, and the couple's three children, Brittany, 9, Jerry Ray Jr., 8, and Andrew, 6, to each give 5

[View the full-text article, approx. 3 printed pages, 703 words]

February 10, 1997

Missing woman's mom arrested in attack - Daughter's estranged husband treated for injuries after 3 a.m. confrontation in Wilson County

Jaime Castillo Express-News Staff Writer

The mother of a Wilson County woman who has been missing since Christmas Day was arrested Sunday on charges that she broke into the home of her daughter's estranged husband and attacked him with a baseball bat.

Patsy Wallace was arrested about 3 a.m. and charged with burglary of a habitation and assault with a deadly weapon, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said.

She was released from the Wilson County jail about 11:30 a.m. Sunday on bonds totaling $50,000, Tackitt said. Wallace's daughter, Patty Vaughan, was last seen Dec. 25. Her abandoned van was found parked along Loop 1604 near Farm Road 1937 on Dec. 26. According to investigators, Wallace entered the Oak Park Road residence Sunday through a back door and confronted her daughter's estranged husband, Jerry Ray Vaughan, with the bat. A scuffle ensued, and Vaughan was struck several times in the legs, Tackitt said. Vaughan and Wallace both

[View the full-text article, approx. 1 printed pages, 291 words]

February 28, 1997

Relative questions delay in missing mom's crime lab work

Anita McDivitt and Maro Robbins Express-News Staff Writers

More than a month after a judge ordered a missing woman's husband and children to give blood samples for DNA testing, her family members want to know why the Bexar County medical examiner's office has yet to begin testing.

``We were told, over and over, by sheriff's detectives that they were in contact with the lab, and they were working with the blood,'' said Jean Barta, one of the last people to see Patty Vaughan, 32, before she disappeared from her home in Adkins on Christmas Day.

``Why has it been sitting in the lab since Jan. 17 and nothing has been done with it?,'' Barta asked. Groups of family members, friends and volunteers have conducted searches to find the missing mother of three. Her van was found by her employer on Loop 1604 and Farm Road 1937, and investigators later found blood inside. Chief medical examiner Dr. Vincent DiMaio said the

[View the full-text article, approx. 3 printed pages, 679 words]

April 8, 1997

DNA testing links blood in vehicle to missing mother - Sheriff says evidence points further to murder

Melissa Prentice Express-News Staff Writer

DNA evidence confirmed Monday that blood found in Patty Vaughan's abandoned van and home belonged to the Wilson County mother missing since Christmas.

A North Carolina lab notified local authorities Monday morning that a positive match had been made when comparing the traces of blood evidence with blood samples taken from Vaughan's estranged husband and three children.

Authorities did not have a sample of Vaughan's blood, but were able to use genetic typing from her family to identify the traces. ``The tests showed that it was her blood'' found in the rear passenger seat area of her blueish-gray Dodge Caravan and in the master bedroom of the family home where Jerry Ray Vaughan lived, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said. Tackitt said the test results are another indication that Vaughan - whose case has been investigated as a missing person - was killed. But he said authorities are still no closer

[View the full-text article, approx. 2 printed pages, 529 words]

April 18, 1997

Private eye hunting for woman - Family frustrated over disappearance of 32-year-old on Christmas Day

Anita McDivitt Express-News Staff Writer

Family members frustrated with the slow pace of the investigation into the disappearance of Patty Vaughan took matters into their own hands Thursday and announced they hired a private detective.

Private investigator Charles Parker met with friends and family of the 32-year-old Wilson County woman, who has been missing since Christmas Day.

He said he was confident his investigative team would soon solve the mystery of her disappearance. ``I believe law enforcement will take their time and try to build a case,'' Parker said. ``We're going to find our own suspect. Whenever we work a murder, it's a shot in the arm to law enforcement.'' He said Thursday, his first day on the case, was spent in a helicopter taking digital photographs of a 4-square-mile area where he believes it is likely Vaughan's body may be found. Other members of his team, including a psychologist, an ``intuitive'' psychic, an attorney and

[View the full-text article, approx. 3 printed pages, 930 words]

May 2, 1997

High technology joining hunt for missing woman

Anita McDivitt Express-News Staff Writer

After months of combing through empty fields on foot, horseback and with cadaver dogs, the search for Patty Vaughan is expanding to high-tech equipment and psychic insight.

Investigators and family members believe the 32-year-old Wilson County woman, who disappeared from her home in Adkins on Christmas Day, may be buried in the concrete foundation of an elementary school in Pleasanton.

To find out, investigators with the Wilson County Sheriff's Department Monday flew over the construction site on FM 476 and Oak Valley Street with a state helicopter equipped with an infra-red system that detects ``hot spots'' in the earth. Over the next few days they plan to drill holes into the concrete to probe for any gasses that might be released by a decomposing body, as well as scan the area with ground-penetrating radar to detect possible hollow spots in the concrete. Meanwhile, an ``intuitive'' psychic is working with private detective

[View the full-text article, approx. 2 printed pages, 528 words]

May 7, 1997

Missing woman's body hunted at building site

Jesse Clements Express-News Staff Writer

PLEASANTON - Wilson County sheriff's deputies and Texas Rangers used ground-penetrating radar, a hole-boring machine and a cadaver dog during a seven-hour search at an elementary school under construction here Tuesday, but came away empty in the search for the body of missing Patty Vaughan.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe. D. Tackitt Jr. said at a news conference in the afternoon that radar turned up a few anomalies in the concrete slab which were not suspicious.

He said the samples taken from the bore holes are being sent to a laboratory for analysis and the dog, trained to detect the odor of methane emanating from decomposing bodies, failed to react to any of the holes. Tackitt said the concrete slab was poured Dec. 21, four days before Vaughan's disappearance, but they wanted to check it anyway in the event the records were in error, and to answer some questions that had arisen. ``We

[View the full-text article, approx. 2 printed pages, 413 words]

May 8, 1997


- Search for missing woman continues at construction site: Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. and several deputies returned to a Pleasanton elementary school under construction on Wednesday to continue searching for the remains of missing Patty Vaughan.

``We were only there about thirty minutes,'' Tackitt said. ``We just wanted to test the bore holes with a machine that detects methane. We didn't find anything.''

Tackitt said the investigation is continuing, but the Pleasanton site is no longer being considered. Officers spent seven hours with machines and a cadaver dog Tuesday checking the cement foundation slab for a body. The school construction job superintendent is the estranged husband of the missing woman, J.R. Vaughan. He assisted officers and cooperated during the search. The search of the concrete slab was done with Vaughan's consent. There have been no arrests or charges filed in the case. - Fire plan meetings reset: The death

[View the full-text article, approx. 2 printed pages, 339 words]

May 24, 1997

Mother indicted in beating

Woman charged in attack on missing daughter's husband

Jesse Clements

The mother of a missing Wilson County woman was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on charges of breaking into the home of her missing daughter's estranged husband and beating him with a baseball bat.

Patsy Wallace, mother of Patty Vaughan, was indicted on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and burglary of a habitation, both felony offenses. Vaughan has been missing since Christmas Day and her family fears she is dead. A spokeswoman in the Wilson County district clerk's office said Wallace will remain free on bonds totaling $50,000 which she posted following the alleged attack Feb. 9. Jerry Ray Vaughan told investigators at the time a woman broke into his home and attacked him with a bat. He was treated at Wilson Memorial Hospital for minor injuries and released. Wallace, who was arrested immediately after the assault by Wilson County sheriff's deputies, has since appeared repeatedly

[View the full-text article, approx. 1 printed pages, 323 words]

June 3, 1997

Vaughan case still at dead end

Hoping for new lead, Wilson County sheriff opens file on investigation

Jesse Clements

FLORESVILLE - Despite thousands of hours of work by deputies from four sheriffs' offices, Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety, with assistance from the FBI and two engineering firms, Wilson County Sheriff Joe E. Tackitt Jr. said his department is no closer now to solving the disappearance of Patty Vaughan than on the day she was last seen.

Tackitt admitted the heavy criticism of his department for not finding the woman, or her body, has taken its toll, but he said he understands the family's frustration. "Of all people, I can certainly understand and appreciate their feelings," the sheriff said. "I know we are certainly frustrated. "I would give anything if we could bring this case to a conclusion, preferably by finding her alive, or at least in finding her body." Tackitt said his office alone has worked more than 2,000 hours on the case, more than on

[View the full-text article, approx. 4 printed pages, 1088 words]

June 5, 1997

Pleasanton school samples no help in Vaughan search

FLORESVILLE - Core samples from beneath the concrete foundation of a school under construction in Pleasanton showed no trace of methane gas, Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. said Wednesday.

The samples were taken three weeks ago during the search for Patty Vaughan, who disappeared from her home Christmas Day and has been the subject of an intensive probe not only by Tackitt's deputies but Texas Rangers and officers from Bexar and Atascosa counties. Preliminary test results also were negative and were reported a week ago. A special machine drilled through the concrete and about 2 feet into the soil. It was explained that decomposing bodies produce methane gas that usually is trapped underneath. Tackitt said that, despite the investigation, officers had turned up no clue as to the woman's whereabouts and had not found her body.

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November 21, 1997

Psychiatric exam ordered for mom

FLORESVILLE - A psychiatric examination was ordered Thursday for the mother of a woman who has been missing since Christmas Eve, and who is charged with burglary and aggravated assault.

Patsy Wallace, mother of missing Patty Vaughan, was ordered to undergo the exam by Dr. John Sparks of San Antonio sometime prior to her scheduled jury trial Jan. 5 in 81st District Court, District Attorney Lynn Ellison said. Wallace is charged with breaking into the home of her son-in- law, J.R. Vaughan, Feb. 9 and attacking him with a baseball bat. She has been free on bonds totaling $50,000. Patty Vaughan last was seen at the Vaughan residence Dec. 24. Her abandoned van was found the next day on Loop 1604, just west of Interstate 37. Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. and his department have searched for the woman at length, even at sites where her body might

[View the full-text article, approx. 1 printed pages, 209 words]

December 25, 1997

Family still seeking missing mother of 3 Officials say Vaughan case remains a mystery

Adolfo Pesquera

For the family of Patty Vaughan, a young mother of three, Christmas marks the first anniversary since she vanished from her Wilson County home.

Yet, her family members are far from giving up their quest to find her, or her remains. Jean Barta, Vaughan's aunt, has been a steadfast leader of the family search for her 32-year-old niece. On the anniversary of Vaughan's disappearance, sheriff's offices in two counties and the Texas Rangers have come to a standstill in their investigations. Evidence indicates Vaughan met with foul play after she disappeared following a Christmas Day argument with her estranged husband, J.R. Vaughan. Barta, a retired nurse, has been critical of law enforcement efforts throughout the investigation. She has used everything at her means to draw attention to the case and keep the pressure on police, she said. "We've e-mailed, we've faxed, we've written letters, we've made phone calls," Barta said.

[View the full-text article, approx. 3 printed pages, 998 words]

January 6, 1998

Psychiatric test delays trial of Vaughan mother

Jesse Clements

FLORESVILLE - The trial of the mother of missing housewife Patty Vaughan was postponed Monday after a defense motion was granted calling for a psychiatric examination.

Patsy Wallace is charged with the Feb. 9, 1997, burglary and aggravated assault of the missing woman's husband, J.R. Vaughan, at his home in Wilson County. Both counts are felonies and she is free on bonds totaling $50,000. Officers were told a woman forced her way into the house and beat Vaughan with a baseball bat. He was treated at Wilson Memorial Hospital here for injuries and subsequently released. District Judge Stella Saxon granted the motion and ordered the exam by Bexar County psychiatrist Dr. John Sparks. Vaughan last was seen Christmas Day 1996 by her husband when she drove away in a van from the couple's home following an argument. The woman was reported missing the next day when her abandoned vehicle was

[View the full-text article, approx. 1 printed pages, 307 words]

June 25, 1998

Husband of missing Floresville woman sought by police

Jesse Clements

FLORESVILLE - The husband of a Floresville housewife last seen Christmas Day 1996 is being sought by law enforcement officials after he missed a court hearing Tuesday concerning a misdemeanor assault charge.

Charged with failing to appear for the hearing is J.R. Vaughan, 38, who has been free on $7,000 bond since he was accused of assaulting his wife's aunt, Jean Barta, May 5. Patty Vaughan disappeared in 1996 after she last was seen driving away from her home in southern Wilson County in the couple's van. Her husband is accused of assaulting Patty's aunt during an altercation near his home. Barta and another woman told officers they were looking at a house near Vaughan's home when he confronted them. Barta claimed Vaughan grabbed her arm and jerked her. She said she hit her head on her vehicle. The incident was the second altercation between J.R. Vaughan and the missing

[View the full-text article, approx. 1 printed pages, 304 words]

October 6, 1999

Search for body turns up nothing

Lisa Sandberg

Working on a tip, law enforcement officials from at least four agencies combed a patch of private terrain for the remains of a missing woman on Wilson County's western edge Tuesday.

By late afternoon, they'd found neither a body nor a shred of physical evidence that would lead them closer to solving the case of 32-year-old Patty Vaughan, who disappeared on a Christmas afternoon nearly three years ago. "We've searched 20 different locations, and we don't have any other locations to (look)," frustrated Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. said in announcing that officials were calling off their six-hour search along Farm Road 1303. "We hope we get another call. We hope someone else comes by with more information." For the family of the missing mother of three, the resumed search Tuesday chafed anguishing wounds that haven't had a chance to heal. "It's always hard driving away (from a search

[View the full-text article, approx. 3 printed pages, 712 words]

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