Lucas Vance search focused on abandoned quarry

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 19, 2019 at 10:53 PM

UNICOI — The three-week search for Unicoi restaurant owner Lucas Vance intensified Tuesday at a small, abandoned quarry on Unicoi Drive where sonar equipment on Monday detected what is believed to be a body.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley told reporters Tuesday afternoon, “A Washington County Dive Team went into the water this morning and did not find anything. It’s an old quarry with lots of debris and the water is murky. So the decision was made to drain it.”

By 4 p.m., two county highway department pumps had removed about four feet of water from the quarry, and another diver was sent down to search the area where the sonar image was picked up.

After about a half-hour of searching, the diver emerged to report the water remained too murky to allow the search to continue by any other means than by hand, one foot at a time.

After a conference with the diver and sonar specialist, Hensley said, “The TBI and I and my investigators agreed we need to drain it completely overnight.”

As darkness began to fall, a mobile lighting unit was set up and Unicoi Highway Department Chief Terry Haynes was bringing in a third, larger pump to supplement two pumps that had been used throughout the day on Tuesday.

“We don’t know for sure what it is; it could be a deer or other animal that has fallen in there,” Hensley said. ‘We’re going to find out, probably in the morning.”

Hensley said investigators on Monday also administered polygraph tests to several people who had been previously interviewed by his detectives and TBI agents. “They all passed,” he said.

Vance, who owns the popular Maple Grove restaurant in Unicoi, mysteriously went missing from his Marbleton Road home on Oct. 30.

A security surveillance camera showed him entering the house on the evening of Oct. 29, but did not show him leave the home afterward.

When he failed to show up at the restaurant the following morning, family members went to the home and notified the police after finding him missing and his cell phone, wallet and other items he normally carried inside.

Law enforcement officers, local search and rescue teams and dozens of friends, family members and volunteers spent several days searching the mountainous area mountain surrounding Vance’s home.

While the official ground search was called off on Nov. 3, Hensley said the investigation remains very active and will continue until Vance is found.

He said friends and family members continue to search and investigators are following every lead available.