NPSO: Remains found inside car in Cane River positively identified

NPSO: Remains found inside car in Cane River positively identified
Kara Vaughn's remains have been positively identified. (Source: NPSO)

NATCHITOCHES PARISH, La. (KSLA) - After nearly 28 years, one Natchitoches family has some closure.

On Wednesday, March 24, the LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services Lab in Baton Rouge confirmed the remains in the vehicle found submerged in Cane River on March 15 are those of Kara E. Vaugn of Natchitoches.

Vaughn, 40, was reported missing to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office on November 3, 1993.

Family members reported that Vaughn left their home between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. that evening. She was a diabetic and did not take her medication with her.

Her family told authorities that she was upset that evening and stated “she would drive her vehicle in Cane River and never be found.”

NPSO began an investigation into her disappearance by interviewing family and friends, but they were unable to develop any leads about where she may have gone. Some of her friends said she may have traveled to California.

Vaughn’s information was entered into the National Crime Information Center as a missing person.

DNA profiles from the family were given to the LSU FACES Lab in Baton Rouge which manages the Louisiana Repository for Unidentified and Missing Persons Information Project.

Detectives continued their investigation and missing person reports were issued to law enforcement and media outlets.

NPSO searched the Cane River multiple times but found no signs of a vehicle being in the river. In 2007, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office offered new special sonar equipment to search the river for clues. Nothing was found.

In February 2021, Ben Abraham, of the Northwestern State University Fishing Team, along with his friend, Zach Gagnard, were fishing in the Cane River when they noticed a possible vehicle on their fish finder. They were approximately 1.2 miles north of the Shell Beach Bridge.

The Natchitoches Parish Sherriff's Office has released the image that lead to the discovery of the presumed remains of a woman who went missing in November 1993.
The Natchitoches Parish Sherriff's Office has released the image that lead to the discovery of the presumed remains of a woman who went missing in November 1993. (Source: NPSO)

On Friday, March 12 after weather conditions improved, NPSO dive members searched the Cane River near that location. A small vehicle was found submerged in 10 to 12 feet of water.

Major Doug Rachal contacted Lt. Ron Johnson with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit and Dive Team to assist in the examination and recovery of the vehicle. The Calcasieu divers arrived in Natchitoches on Monday, March 15.

Around 10 a.m. on Monday, March 15, the divers found what appeared to be a Honda Civic with all the windows rolled up. Inside the vehicle, divers discovered human skeleton remains.

Deputies with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff's Office recovered a submerged vehicle from the Cane River about a quarter of a mile north of Pratt's Bridge and just south of Tommy's Grocery on Highway 494.
Deputies with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff's Office recovered a submerged vehicle from the Cane River about a quarter of a mile north of Pratt's Bridge and just south of Tommy's Grocery on Highway 494. (Source: NPSO)

Also in the vehicle, authorities found a laminated identification card, a photograph of Kara Vaughn and other documents.

The Natchitoches Parish Coroner’s Office responded to the scene. The remains were presumed to be those of Kara E. Vaughn who had been missing for nearly 28 years.

The remains were transported to the LSU FACES Lab for dental records and DNA comparison. Vaughn was positively identified through dental records comparison.

Calcasieu deputies assisted in removing the vehicle from the water using special flotation bags placed under the vehicle. The bags were inflated to raise the car to the surface. The vehicle was towed to a boat ramp and removed from the water. It was taken to an undisclosed location for evidence.

“Unfortunately the outcome did not come out as we expected for Kara but at least the family has some peace and closure now,” said Sheriff Wright.

Sheriff Wright extended his condolences to the family. Vaughn’s mother passed away in 2012.

Following the completion of the examination, the remains will be released to the family for a proper burial.

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