Bone Found in SUV Retrieved from Ohio River Belongs to Ind. Mom Who Vanished with Her Kids in 2002

Stephanie Van Nguyen was 26 when she disappeared with her 4-year-old daughter, Kristina, and 3-year-old son, Jonathan, in April 2002

Stephanie Van Nguyen and her children

Human remains found in a SUV submerged in the Ohio River belong to a woman who vanished almost 20 years ago with her two young children, authorities say.

Stephanie Van Nguyen was 26 when she disappeared with her 4-year-old daughter, Kristina, and 3-year-old son, Jonathan, in April 2002. She had left a note that said she was going to drive her 1997 Nissan Pathfinder into the Ohio River.

At the time, authorities searched the water but did not find any trace of the woman or her children.

In October 2021, the vehicle was discovered submerged in the river. Authorities found one human bone in the vehicle, according to a press release from the Indiana State Police.

DNA testing on the bone shows that it belonged to Nguyen. There was no trace of her children in the vehicle.

Photo of Nissan Pathfinder recovered from the Ohio River
Indiana State Police

In a statement, Dearborn County Coroner Cameron McCreary said that since no other human remains were found inside the SUV, Nguyen's children will remain listed as missing persons. There are plans for divers to search the area once the weather improves, McCreary says.

"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's statement reads.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

According to the Charley Project, which tracks missing persons cases, Nguyen had expressed a desire to commit suicide before she vanished.

"She left behind notes for her husband and parents saying her failed marriage had driven her to death," the site states. "She was going to kill herself and her children by driving into the Ohio River near the Grand Victoria Casino."

Nguyen was last seen on April 19, the day after they left home, when a police officer stopped the mother in her car near a boat ramp to the Ohio River, the site reports. The officer allegedly noticed the two children asleep in the backseat of the vehicle. It was the last known sighting of any of them.

Related Articles