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Details of mum’s Xmas Day disappearance: last phone call to abandoned van

3 min read

The disappearance of mother-of-three Patty Vaughan remains a mystery, 25 years after the Christmas night when she was last seen.

Police suspected the involvement of Patty’s estranged husband JR Vaughan , but never found enough evidence to press charges.

Patty had separated from JR two months before her disappearance, and had reportedly started a new relationship with another man named Gary at around the same time.

Patty, who was 32 on the time, vanished after arguing with JR on Christmas Day, 1996 in the house they had once shared in La Vernia, about 25 miles east of San Antonio in Texas.

Patty’s sister Jeannie said she had agreed to let JR spend Christmas at the house with their children, but had planned to spend the evening with family nearby.

Jeannie last spoke to her sister on Christmas morning: “We spoke on the phone earlier that morning,” she told NBC’s Dateline. “She sounded like she had been crying. She told me she and J.R. had gotten into an argument. And he made her cry. But that wasn’t anything unusual. He made her cry every holiday.”

According to JR, Patty had stormed out of the house and drove off in her van at around 6:30pm.

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A little after lunchtime the following day, the blue 1991 Dodge Caravan was spotted on the side of the road on Texas State Highway Loop 1604, about 15 miles from Patty’s house and five miles from the Quinney Electric company where she worked.

There’s evidence to suggest it had been parked there shortly before it was discovered. One of the tyres had been deliberately deflated, and forensic tests found traces of what turned out to be Patty’s blood inside.

A search of Patty’s house found further traces of blood in the bedroom and bathroom. Tests revealed that blood had been recently cleaned from the bedroom floor and there were traces of blood on a mop and bucket in the garage.

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Jeannie said her sister’s relationship with JR had been fiery, and she suspects that he may have snapped when he found out she was dating a new man.

Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Detective Ruben Arevalos said Gary had cooperated with the police and had not been considered a suspect in Patty’s disappearance.

Unlike JR, Gary also took part in searches for Patty.

“We didn’t really know him. We really only got to know him while we were searching for Patty,” Jeannie said. “He was out there searching with the rest of us”

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Jeannie added that it was significant that JR "never came out to help look for his own wife".

JR was a building contractor at the time his wife’s disappearance and had been working on two new schools schools in the area.

However, Detective Arevalos said that a search of both building sites didn’t reveal any clues to patty’s whereabouts.

After unsuccessfully applying to cash in Patty’s life insurance policy, JR moved out of the area with the children and changed his name.

Jeannie said that losing contact with the three children was another blow: “It’s just devastating,” she said. “To lose my sister…and to lose those children. They were like my siblings,” she added.

“We just want this nightmare to be over. And even more than justice, we just want to be able to lay her to rest. We want to be at peace.”

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