Vehicle Found at the Bottom of the Ohio River Belongs to Mom and Children Missing for Almost Two Decades

Stephanie (26), Kristina (4), and John (3).Ohio Attorney General

After 20 long, agonizing years, search crews pulled a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder out of the Ohio River, a vehicle belonging to a mother who disappeared with her two young children in 2002 after threatening to commit suicide. 

Investigators used sonar scan technology to search the waters near Aurora, Indiana. The scan revealed the Pathfinder resting more than 50 feet below the surface and divers were able to retrieve the vehicle which was registered to Stephanie Van Nguyen. The Delhi Township had reopened the cold case in 2021. 

On the 18th of April, 2002, 26-year-old Stephanie Van Nguyen and her two beautiful children, 4-year-old Kristina and 3-year-old John, disappeared from Cincinnati, Ohio. Before they vanished, Stephanie left notes for her husband and family stating that she was going to end her life along with the lives of her young children. She felt that her marriage had failed and she couldn’t go on. 

The note claimed that she was going to drive into the Ohio River near the Grand Victoria Casino. When her family discovered the note, they reported the trio missing.

But that wasn’t the last time they were ever seen. The next day, the 19th of April, Stephanie was pulled over by law enforcement for failure to dim the headlights. She was driving her green 1997 Nissan Pathfinder and was pulled over near an Ohio River boat ramp. The officer could see two children asleep in the backseat. After conducting the routine traffic stop, Stephanie drove off and the three were never heard from again.

As the 20th anniversary of their disappearance was approaching, the Delhi police began working with dive teams and experts on sonar technology in an effort to find the missing family and solve the case. The same sonar scans also uncovered two additional submerged vehicles. 

This discovery will undoubtedly give some sense of closure to the family while also generating hope for others who still long for their cold cases to be solved.

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Investigative Journalist

New York, NY

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