Fishermen spot strange image on sonar; what they found helped solve 28-year-old missing persons case

Published 7:45 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2021

An angler’s sonar image has helped solve a 28-year-old missing persons case involving the sister of a former CNN news anchor.

Divers retrieved the remains of Kara Enid Vaughn, 40, on Monday, the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office said in Facebook posts Tuesday and Wednesday. Vaughn, sister of former Headline News anchor Lyn Vaughn, had been reported missing Nov. 3, 1993, the sheriff’s office said.

The divers also found her laminated work ID and still legible Social Security card, Capt. Tony Moran, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Northwestern State University fishing team member Ben Abraham, 20, said he and fishing guide Zack Gagnard, 30, were out fishing for fun and checked out a spot where Abraham had often gone as a child with his father.

They thought at first that the sonar graph might show a four-wheeler or a lawnmower, but returned later and got a much better image, said Abraham, a sophomore studying business administration. The next day he called a cousin whose father works for the sheriff’s office, and he eventually texted his cellphone photo of the sonar screen and the coordinates to the cousin’s father.

Word of a car in Cane River brought Vaughn’s case to mind immediately, Moran said.

“She had threatened on several occasions that she would run her car off into Cane River and never be found,” he said.

He said the river was searched several times soon after Vaughn was reported missing and again in 2007 when the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office offered a new scan using what was then brand-new sonar.

“Equipment has improved since then,” he said.

Abraham’s scan arrived during frigid winter weather, and divers were able to get into the river Friday, Moran said.

“Once you go under the Cane River you can’t see anything. You have to feel-search,” he said. The divers did find what appeared to be a vehicle.

The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office dive team, using special equipment, was able to see the skeleton, break a window and bring up Vaughn’s bones and ID cards on Monday, Moran said The team then floated her Honda Civic to a boat launch where it was taken as evidence, Moran said.

The Louisiana State University FACES Lab in Baton Rouge will compare DNA samples and dental records for a positive identification, he said.

“I’m happy the family finally got closure after so long,” Abraham said.