Authorities say they have positively identified human remains found inside an SUV as those of a mother of two who left a note in 2002 saying she was going to drive into the Ohio River. Testing has confirmed that a bone recovered from the vehicle, which was pulled from the river in October, belongs to Stephanie Van Nguyen, Indiana State Police said in a news release Tuesday.

In April 2002, Nguyen, then 26, and her two children, Kristina, 4, and John, 3, went missing, police said. Nguyen, who was last known to be driving her 1997 Nissan Pathfinder, had left a note indicating she was going to drive into the Ohio River.

In October 2021, side sonar technology finally led divers to the SUV and search crews pulled the vehicle from the Ohio River near Aurora in southeastern Indiana.

After the vehicle was removed from the river, anthropologists from the University of Indianapolis assisted investigators in searching the vehicle for human remains. One bone, believed to be a human bone, was recovered from the vehicle and sent to a laboratory for further investigation. On Friday, the Dearborn County coroner received confirmation that the human remains belong to Nguyen.

Because no other remains were found, the two children will still be listed as missing persons cases, Dearborn County Coroner Cameron McCreary said in a news release. Once the weather improves, investigators will resume their search for human remains in the area where the SUV was found.

“I am happy we were able to finally give Ms. Nguyen’s family some closure in this almost two decade long search for their loved one,” McCreary  said.

Photo of Nissan Pathfinder recovered from the Ohio River.

Indiana State Police