WALNUT, Mississippi — The family farm on the state line had been searched twice, but at church on Sunday, Laurie Vaughn couldn’t put the missing boy out of her mind.
Nathan Covarrubias, a 14-year-old autistic boy, went missing from a residential therapeutic facility near Walnut on May 29, only to be found alive over a week later beside a creek on Vaughn’s family farm.
“After Mass, something was nagging me, let’s go back out there and look,” Vaughn said.
A resident of Lakeland, Tennessee, Vaughn learned about Nathan’s disappearance on Thursday evening, after volunteers, law enforcement and his family had been searching for days across three counties in two states.
The Covarrubias family lives in Forth Worth, Texas, but Nathan had been at the Summmit’s View Ranch for Boys since February. Located in Alcorn County, just south of Tennessee and just east of the Tippah County line, the facility promotes itself as offering faith-based treatment and mentoring for boys with behavioral and emotional struggles.
Vaughn soon realized that her family’s farm – some 400 acres spread across Mississippi and Tennessee – is very near the Summit’s View Ranch from where Nathan disappeared.
“I looked, it’s like two miles as the bird flies,” Vaughn said. “I thought, there’s a very good chance that this young man would turn up on the farm somewhere. I just felt it in my heart.”
Vaughn and one of her four brothers searched the property on Friday. Two of her brothers searched again on Saturday. They found nothing.
But Vaughn, who lived in Olive Branch for years, could not put the missing boy from her mind and heart.
The parent of twins the same age as Nathan, Vaughn felt a special concern for the pain of Nathan’s mother, Carrie.
“I have a 14-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter,” Vaughn said. “I could relate to what this mother was feeling. I really made a connection with this mom. I just connected, and I just wanted to help and I think that’s what drove me back there on Sunday.”
The farm is an hour’s drive from Lakeland, but Vaughn trekked out there anyway, with part of her family in tow.
A self-described cradle Roman Catholic, Vaughn clutched a devotional medal she often wears, the “Miraculous Medal.”
Once there, Vaughn again felt a sense of direction.
“Some little voice in my head said, slow down and check the creek,” said Vaughn, who was patrolling the property by this point on a side-by-side. “So I slowed down and looked and there he was. Almost like divine intervention, there he was.”
But the news did not look good at first. Lying face-down on a sandy part of creek bank, Vaughn first thought the boy was dead.
“I started crying, because I thought this poor mother has lost her son,” Vaughn said. “We didn’t get here fast enough.”
But he wasn’t dead. He started moving.
“It was just so unbelievable,” Vaughn said. “Everything happened so fast after that.”
A few phone calls later, emergency personnel soon swarmed the site. A helicopter landed in a field that is usually planted for crops.
From there, Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell said Sunday that the teenager was transported to a hospital in Memphis for observation.
Speaking to the Daily Journal on Monday, Vaughn said that despite her role in the discovery of Nathan, she couldn’t take any credit.
“God found this boy,” she said.
She still clearly remembers her prayer from Sunday morning, as she put on the Miraculous Medal.
“That morning I put it on and I held it tight,” Vaughn remembered, “and I said we really need a miracle.”