Mystery of Woman Who Left Ohio River Driving Note in 2002 Solved


Photo of Nissan Pathfinder recovered in Ohio River provided by Indiana State Police

AURORA, Indiana (WANE) – Authorities have identified with certainty the human remains found inside an SUV as those of a woman who left a note in 2002 saying she was going to drive in the Ohio River. According to Indiana State Police, in April 2002, Stephanie Van Nguyen, 26, and her two children, Kristina, 4, and John, 3, went missing.

Nguyen was last known driving her 1997 Nissan Pathfinder. She had left a note stating that she was going to drive in the Ohio River, but the SUV could not be found.

In 2021, police conducted a thorough search of the river using sonar side scan technology that allowed divers to locate a vehicle that matched Nguyen’s Pathfinder description. The license plate on the vehicle confirmed that the vehicle belonged to Nguyen.

Dive crews worked to bring the vehicle back to the surface, over 50 feet deep and 300 feet from the river bank.

Photo of Ohio River search effort in 2021 provided by Indiana State Police

After the vehicle was removed from the river, anthropologists from the University of Indianapolis helped investigators search the vehicle for human remains. A bone, believed to be human, was recovered from the vehicle and sent to a lab for further investigation.

The tests, which were performed by the Ohio Bureau’s Criminal Investigations Lab, confirmed that the bone belonged to Stephanie Van Nguyen.

Because no further remains have been found, the two children will still be listed as missing persons cases unless other remains are found. The family could also ask the courts to have the children declared legally dead.

Once the weather improves, investigators will resume their search for human remains in the area where the SUV was found.


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