Patty Inez Brightwell Vaughan

Patty, circa 1996; J.R. Vaughan, circa 1995; J.R. circa 2005; Patty's van; Jumpsuit found in Patty's van

  • Missing Since 12/25/1996
  • Missing From La Vernia, Texas
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 08/17/1964 (59)
  • Age 32 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'6 - 5'7, 120 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A cream-colored blouse, black slacks, a bracelet, a gold watch, a gold ring with a shell design on her right hand, a necklace with a heart-shaped diamond pendant, diamond stud earrings, a wedding band and possibly a thumb ring.
  • Associated Vehicle(s) Light blue 1991 Dodge Caravan with Texas license plates (accounted for)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Blonde hair, green eyes. Patty's ears are pierced. Her maiden name is Brightwell and her last name may be spelled "Vaughn" by some agencies. She has a small mole on the right side of her chin and an appendectomy scar on her abdomen.

Details of Disappearance

Patty and her husband, Jerry Ray ("J.R.") Vaughan, began a trial separation in October 1996. Photos of J.R. are posted with this case summary. He moved into an apartment in San Antonio, Texas and Patty remained at their residence on Oak Park Road in La Vernia, Texas with their three children. The couple had been married since 1985.

Patty was dating a former boyfriend in December 1996; her husband found out about the relationship on December 13. He and Patty and got into an argument about it at her home on December 25, 1996. Patty disappeared from her home that day between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. and has not been seen again. J.R. told authorities that Patty left the house alone on December 25 and simply vanished. He filed for divorce from his wife on December 26, just one day after Patty was last seen. Other family members reported her as a missing person to authorities.

Patty's light blue 1991 Dodge Caravan with Texas license plates was discovered abandoned with a flat tire on December 26, one day after she was last seen. The vehicle was located on Loop 1604 in South Bexar County, approximately 5 miles from Patty's employer, Quinney Electric, and 15 miles from her home. Tests revealed that the tire had been intentionally deflated.

A photo of the van is posted with this case summary. A pile of men's clothing was inside it; one of the clothing items was a red workman's jumpsuit, something an auto mechanic or plumber might wear. The jumpsuit had an emblem with the letters JM in white on the back. A photo of it is posted with this case summary.

Investigators searched Patty's residence and the van and discovered blood inside the van, on the walls and floor of Patty's bedroom, in bedroom closet, in the master bath, and on a mop inside the house. Someone had attempted to clean the blood from the house prior to discovery, and the van's carpet had been shampooed recently and was still wet. DNA testing proved that the blood was Patty's. Authorities also found DNA from an unknown female, not Patty, inside her van.

Patty's mother, Patsy Wallace, was charged with burglarizing J.R.'s residence and assaulting him with a baseball bat in February 1997, two months after her daughter disappeared. She said she thought he was involved in her daughter's disappearance. The case was never brought to trial and the charges were eventually dropped. J.R. now resides in Colorado. He maintains his innocence in her case and stated he believed she had left him deliberately.

A few months after Patty's disappearance, investigators looking for evidence in her case examined the foundation of a Natalia, Texas school J.R. had helped build. They searched behind the school gymnasium in June 2006. J.R. had Patty declared legally dead in 2005 and attempted to collect her life insurance. Shortly afterward, Wallace filed a civil wrongful death suit against him. A judge ruled that the life insurance payout would be held in trust for the couple's children.

In December 2008, investigators announced they may be close to solving Patty's case. They stated three friends of the Vaughans are now the focus of the investigation. J.R. is still the primary suspect in Patty's disappearance, but police believe the three family friends may have helped dispose of her body. None of these individuals have been publicly identified, however, and no arrests were made at the time or since then.

Patty and her family have previously lived in the following areas: Portland, Maine; Athens, Georgia; and Stafford, Virginia. She enjoys singing and was active in her church choir in 1996. Her family held a memorial service for her on the tenth anniversary of her disappearance.

Foul play is suspected in Patty's disappearance due to the circumstances involved. She has never been located.

Updated 8 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 19, 2021; details of disappearance updated.