DEARBORN COUNTY, Ind. — A human bone found in a submerged vehicle in the Ohio River near Indiana has been identified as that of an Ohio woman missing for nearly two decades.
In April 2002, the Delhi Township (Ohio) Police Department began investigating 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.
Evidence indicated that Nguyen left a note saying she was going to drive into the Ohio River. Police searched the river at the time but did not find the family or their SUV.
In October 2021, police again started investigating the disappearance of Nguyen and her children. While using sonar to search the river near Aurora, Indiana, divers discovered a vehicle that matched the description of the missing Pathfinder. The license plate confirmed the vehicle belonged to Stephanie Van Nguyen.
The SUV was found at a depth of over 50 feet and approximately 300 feet from the shore, according to Indiana State Police.
After the SUV was removed from the river, anthropologists from the University of Indianapolis helped investigators search the vehicle for human remains. One bone, believed to be a human bone, was found in the SUV and sent to a laboratory for more investigation.
Testing by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations Laboratory confirmed the bone, a fibula, belonged to Stephanie Van Nguyen.
Since no other remains were found in the SUV, the children will still be listed as an open missing person case unless remains are found or if the family files through the courts to have them declared legally dead, according to Dearborn Co. Coroner Cameron McCreary.
“I am happy we were able to finally give Ms. Nguyen’s family some closure in this almost two-decade-long search for their loved one,” McCreary said in a statement.
McCreary added that there are plans in place for another dive to look for additional remains when the weather improves.