'Dad, please come home safe': Community holds prayer vigil for Unicoi man missing since October

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Nov 25, 2019 at 11:22 PM

It’s been nearly a month since her son disappeared, but Wanda Vance’s faith is keeping her strong.

“I have faith; I think he’s coming home,” Vance said, fighting back tears. “He’s coming back. There’s a reason this is happening — I don’t know what it is, but God will show us what it is.”

Vance’s son, Lucas, has been missing since late October: he disappeared from his home on or around Oct. 30.

A surveillance camera showed him entering his home on Oct. 29, but he hasn’t been seen since. While the official ground search was called off on Nov. 3, authorities thought they had detected a body in an abandoned quarry last week, but found no sign of him after draining the quarry on Wednesday.

On Monday evening, a large crowd of people attended a candlelight prayer vigil in front of Lucas ‘Luc’ Vance’s popular restaurant, Maple Grove, in Unicoi.

“We just have such a wonderful community,” Vance’s mother said. “Everyone has just been wonderful: The prayers, the searches — we’ve had a crowd every time we’ve done something like this.

“It means the world,” Wanda Vance said. “It’s what keeps you hanging on.”

Over the weekend, Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley announced investigators had found a four-page letter in Luc Vance’s safe that “suggest(ed) he was planning on harming himself.” Vance’s family, however, feel the letters were his way of expressing his feelings.

“We’ve read the letters, in (them) there was no, to me and to a lot of the family ... indication that he was going to harm himself or anything like that,” said Vance’s cousin, Brandy Brinkley. “We don’t want to mislead people into thinking (there was) because we don’t know.”

Following some criticism for acknowledging the letters in public, Sheriff Hensley wrote on Facebook that he has “worked as hard as I possibly could on Luc’s case,” and that he “vowed” he wouldn’t stop searching till Luc Vance is found.

“I can’t make everyone happy, nor I will publicly tell the every detail, but the family knows,” he wrote. “I know in my heart what we have done and will continue to do.”

During Monday’s vigil, the quiet sobs and sniffles were audible over the words of prayer as a community commiserated together, grieving the disappearance of one of their own.

“It makes me really happy (to see so many at the vigil) because it means a lot of people care about him,” Addison Vance, Luc’s 11-year-old daughter, said. “It makes me really happy that a lot of people care for me, my family and for my dad to come home safe.”

Flanked by friends and family on both sides of her for support, Addison Vance pleaded for her dad’s return, saying “he’s right beside me” and that “he’s going to be home soon.”

“Dad, please come home safe. I love you,” she said, her demeanor unflappable in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

Her grandmother, however, struggled to fight back tears as person after person gave her a hug and express their condolences.

“I do believe that God answers prayers, and there’s a lot of people praying right now,” Wanda Vance said. “It’s been almost a month, and it’s like it just happened yesterday -— people have been so supportive.

“I feel so humbled to have people like this around me, it means the world,” she said. “Luc, wherever you’re at, please come home if you’re able and if you’re not please just give us some closure — let us know where you are. I just really believe you’re still out there, and we love you.”

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Luc Vance is urged to call their local police department or the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department at (423) 743-1850.