The 1996 Christmas Day Disappearance of Patty Vaughan

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Patty Vaughan was a beautiful 32-year-old mother of three children – Brittany, 9, Ray, 8, and Tyler, 6 – and resided in LaVernia, Texas.

Vaughan was a member of the Christian folk band Prism. On Christmas Eve 1996, Vaughan spent the night with her bandmate and best friend, Vicky Purdy. The close friends had practiced in a long rehearsal with the band earlier that evening.

Vaughan left on Christmas morning, and Purdy never saw her friend again.

Vaughan and her husband, Jerry Ray “J.R.” Vaughan, were married for over a decade when they separated in October 1996. J.R. Vaughan moved to San Antonio while Vaughan and the children remained in their LaVernia home.

Vaughan had been a homemaker until the separation but landed a receptionist job with Quinney Electric, 2789 S Loop 1604 W, San Antonio.

She began dating a former boyfriend, a guy named Gary, in December 1996, and her husband found out about the relationship on Dec. 13, 1996. Needless to say, J.R. Vaughan was not happy about it.

According to J.R. Vaughan, on Christmas Day between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., he and his wife got into a heated argument over Vaughan’s new relationship. He claimed Vaughan took off in her blue 1991 Dodge Caravan. She has never been seen again.

Family members, including Vaughan’s sister, Jeannie Iiams, then 18, showed up at Vaughan’s residence looking for her. J.R. Vaughan answered the door but refused to let them inside, saying Vaughan was not feeling well and would not come out of her bedroom.

Iiams told Dateline in December 2019 that this was not normal behavior of her sister.

“She would have gone to her room, fixed her makeup and come back out and been a good hostess. That was who she was,” Iiams said.

Iiams last spoke to Vaughen over the telephone on Christmas morning. Vaughan had been crying because she and her husband got into an argument. She had agreed to let him spend Christmas Day with their children at the house.

On Dec. 26, 1996, a co-worker found Vaughan’s van along the side of the road on Loop 1604 in southern Bexar County, five miles from Quinney Electic and 15 miles from her home. According to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, “The front door was locked, and the right front tire was deflated but held air when pumped back up.” Someone had deliberately deflated the tire. Police found traces of blood inside the vehicle.

That same day, J.R. Vaughan filed for divorce and moved back into the LaVernia home with the children. 

Law enforcement officials extensively searched for Vaughan after her family reported her missing. They found no trace of the woman. 

A forensic search of Vaughan’s home revealed traces of blood in the bathroom and bedroom. “Luminol testing picked up swipe marks on the bedroom floor, and there were traces of blood inside a mop and bucket in the garage,” Dateline reported.

Vaughan’s boyfriend, Gary, cooperated with the police, and officials never considered him a suspect. Furthermore, he assisted in the search for Vaughan, unlike Vaughan’s husband, who never helped look for his wife.

In February 1997, Vaughan’s mother, Patsy Wallace, broke into J.R. Vaughan’s residence and assaulted him with a baseball bat because she believed he killed her daughter. 👏 👏 👏 The police later dropped the charges.

Vaughan’s husband was a building contractor when his wife disappeared and was working on the construction of two elementary schools. Thinking he might have buried Vaughan in one of the locations, police thoroughly searched the areas including behind the school gymnasium in 2006. They found no evidence to indicate he had buried his wife at either location.

Twelve years after Vaughan went missing, the police announced they were investigating three friends of the Vaughans. Her husband remains the primary suspect, but investigators believe the friends helped him dispose of her body.

In 2012, new DNA findings in the disappearance pointed to an unknown female in Vaughan’s van. The female is not related to Vaughan, but the police said they believe they know the identity of the mystery female but cannot obtain her DNA without probable cause.

Vaughan’s husband has maintained his innocence in her disappearance. Interestingly, according to Dateline, he and the children moved out of state. J.R. Vaughan also changed his name, but it appears he is no longer using the alias. The children have no contact with their mother’s family.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

I’m sure you’ve heard of this case. Nevertheless, I wanted to share what I thought about it because it angers the hell out of me.

If J.R. changed his name early on, he started using his birth name again because I found J.R. and the kids, now adults, on Facebook.  

 Patty Vaughan: photo comparison of husband Jerry Ray Vaughan 1990s and recently
Jerry Ray “J.R.” Vaughan (Photo on right, c. 2011: Facebook)
Patty Vaughan: Jerry Ray Vaughan c. 2017
Photo: Facebook

Obviously, I think J.R. killed his wife because of her relationship with Gary or a fight that got out of hand.

I’d like to know who the unknown female DNA belongs to – police say they think they know who the woman is but need probable cause to get a DNA sample from her. 

WTF? A woman’s DNA was in the van. Police suspect a particular person. Why isn’t that enough probable cause? How else are you going to prove it’s her or isn’t her? Wait for someone to spill the beans after 25 years?? Good luck with that. 

I realize it proves this woman was in the vehicle; it doesn’t prove she was involved in the disappearance. But what are the chances she wasn’t?

Who are the three friends and the female? She actually might be one of them.

Can you imagine being these assholes? 

JR Vaughan: “Hey, I just killed my wife. Think you could, you know, help a guy out and assist me in getting rid of her body?”

Friends: “Ohhhh sure. What are friends for!” 

I mean, what kind of moron agrees to something like that?

A couple on J.R.’s Facebook, he claims, are his best friends. The wife comments and likes on his kids’ pages, and one calls her “Mama” with her first name. So maybe they are 2 of the 3. Who knows. J.R. calls their daughter his “other daughter.” The couple lives in LaVernia, and I would wager they have been there a long time.

But I also found a post on Facebook from Patty’s relative (Tasha Rae) who says the family believes the female is Marilyn Oviedo, the suspected killer’s sister. 

“She is a loud and obnoxious fixture, ever present when LE shows up or tries to talk to J.R.”

That makes more sense that the unknown female is her, but maybe the couple makes up the other two. This is strictly my opinion, though.

Either way, you are a complete asshole for helping him get rid of Patty’s body. In Texas, can the police charge accomplices with the exact charges as the killer because they aided and abetted him? I think they can, but I’m not sure.

Whoever you three people are, you deserve to rot in hell. 

There is more case info on this FB post mentioned above, and a few things stood out:

Dec. 25, 1996: “Anonymous caller’s friend (to Bexar County Sheriff Office) saw a blue van on the same road pull over. “A white male exited the van and began running away from the van, then stopped and ran back towards the van as if he had forgotten something.”

Dec. 26, 1996, afternoon: “After getting spare set of van keys from JR, Patty’s co-workers Quinney and Lopez went to Patty’s van and noticed exhaust manifold to the engine was still warm to the touch. They changed the flat tire. Lopez did not have to adjust either the seat or the mirrors to drive the van (to Patty’s place of work Quinney Electric.).”

Dec. 27, 1996: “Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputies A. Ramirez and B. Johnson investigated the van. Ramirez found a dark colored stain on the bottom portion of the rear center seat. When Johnson kneeled down on the van’s carpeting (in the area between the rear seat and the sliding door) to look at the stain, he discovered that his jeans now had wet stains on the knees. Ramirez believed the carpeting in the area between the rear seat and sliding door had been washed or cleaned. When they removed the rear center seat, they observed that the seat holders nearest the sliding van door contained a significant amount of water. Using the chemical substance Luminol, Ramirez found a reaction in the areas of the carpet between the van’s sliding door and the center seat, under the rear portion of the front passenger seat, under the rear seat sliding door side, and on the interior of the sliding door. After removing the plastic covers around the center seat closest to sliding door area, Ramirez noticed some red and brown stained condensation under the larger piece of plastic that holds part of the seat belt strap. Later Chief Forensic Serologist Lonnie D. Ginsberg positively identified human blood from an area under the rear seat of the van.”

Dec. 29, 1996: “Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division and other evidence technicians investigated Patty’s residence. Using the chemical substance Luminol to find reactions with items contained in blood, the officers found very strong reactions in the bath area, wall adjacent to bedroom door, and bedroom floor. When the officers turned off the light, they observed what appeared to be shoe prints on the bathroom floor leading to the closet. There were also various streak or swab-type markings on the bedroom floor, adjacent to the bathroom floor and leading into the bath and closet area.”

If the above info is accurate, that was a bloody crime scene. So, I’m guessing Patty was stabbed or shot to death. 

What caused the “various streaks or swab-type marking on the bedroom floor?”  

***

What bullshit story did J.R. tell his children about their mother? He probably told them she ran off – the same shit he said to the police. Do they ever wonder what really happened to her?

Brittany was nine years old when her mother vanished. She was old enough to remember her mother, how her mother raised her, the type of mother Patty was to her, etc. She would also not forget anything that occurred in that house on Christmas Day. You would never forget the day your mother disappeared. I suppose she could have blocked out the trauma, but I’m skeptical.

Were the kids at the house when she vanished? It’s possible they witnessed her murder but will never come forward. OR, at the very least, they might have seen the argument. I’m confident they know more than they will ever tell.

We know that Patty and her killer husband did get into an argument on Christmas morning because Patty told her sister on the phone. According to J.R., they fought that evening. But are we to believe anything he said?

I’m not convinced Patty ever drove the van that day. I think the unknown female could have dumped it on the highway. Maybe she had Patty’s blood on her and transferred it into the van, like on the steering wheel. The person could have deflated the tire there. If the female were around the same height as Patty, she would not adjust the seat.

***

I have no idea why the police never arrested J.R. According to J.R.’s own admission, he was at the house that night, they found Patty’s blood in the bathroom AND bedroom, and he was the last person to see her alive. He refused to let her family in the house when they looked for Patty. JR filed for divorce the day after his wife went missing. He moved out of state (Boise, Idaho) and supposedly changed his name right after. 

Maybe he has connections with the police. Nothing would surprise me.

J.R. was a contractor who had lots of tools for dismembering. Just sayin’.

Now, unless the police excavated the ground or used sonar where the schools are located, they would have no idea if a body is buried there or not. I’m assuming they did this; I have no idea. Patty’s family believes she is buried somewhere within the vicinity of the home. So, why hasn’t the police searched there?

PLEASE NOTE: Patty’s disappearance has been covered extensively on the internet. The information contained in this article is from my own research. The opinions expressed are strictly those of the author (me) and do not reflect the opinions or views of anyone outside this blog.

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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