Sheriff: Search for Luc Vance ends with body's discovery in Unicoi

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Dec 16, 2019 at 8:33 PM

UNICOI — Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department deputies, along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and a private investigator, believe they have found the body of Lucas “Luc” Vance, a popular restaurant owner who has been missing since late October.

“We do believe it is the body of Lucas Vance, but there has to be a positive confirmation from the coroner’s office” Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley told the Johnson City Press Monday night.

The sheriff said dispatchers received a call around 3 p.m. Monday about the discovery of a body, along with a backpack that had Vance’s identification inside. The body was found off of a service road off Little Mountain Road in a heavily wooded area accessible only by foot or all-terrain vehicle. 

“It was just wooded and mountainous,” Bart Ray, an auxiliary sheriff’s deputy and member of the Unaka Mountain Search and Rescue Team, said of the area where the body was found. “It wasn’t a severe steep slope, but somewhat of a steeped ridge.” 

Hensley said Vance’s family has been notified. The sheriff said he was not ready to release a cause of death. 

“It’s still under investigation, and the body has been sent for an autopsy,” Hensley said. “I can’t release (a cause of death) at this time or say anything until an autopsy has been performed.” 

In November, Hensley acknowledged that his department had discovered a four-page letter that “suggest(ed) he was planning on harming himself.” At that time, Vance’s family said they thought it was just a way of Vance expressing his emotions. 

Vance, owner of the Maple Grove Restaurant in Unicoi, had been reported missing on Oct. 30, and he had not been seen since a surveillance camera showed him entering his home on Oct. 29, but he hadn’t been seen since. Authorities called off the ground search for Vance on Nov. 3. Asked why a private investigator was able to find Vance’s body in less than a week after being hired by the family, Hensley said it is “a remote” and “large” area.  

“They had been in close proximity of where he was found, maybe a ridge over,” Hensley said of previous searches, “but they had not been in that area where he was found.

“We were relatively close,” he said. 

Ray said the area where the body was found was in about 1,400 acres of woods, and they had previously searched about 600-700 acres of the area over “multiple days.” 

“We had been on both sides of (the body), but not in that particular hollow where he was found,” Ray said. “I would say (we were off) not by hundreds of yards, but maybe 100 yards either way.” 

Hensley said the department’s “hearts go out” and that his prayers are “with the family.” 

“Our heart breaks for them,” Hensley said. “There’s been a lot of effort put into this (search) from a lot of people — it’s heart-wrenching for the public.

“He was a good boy, and our hearts and prayers go out to his family, especially this time of year,” the sheriff said.   

Previously reported: 

UPDATE: Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley confirmed that a body found off Little Mountain Road on Monday was that of missing Maple Grove Restaurant owner Lucas “Luc” Vance.

Hensley said an autopsy would be necessary, but he was sure the body was Vance’s.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for more details on this developing story.

UNICOI — Unicoi County authorities were working Monday evening to retrieve a body found in a mountainous location near the search area for a man missing more than a month.

The Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department had established a base on Little Mountain Road off Sciota Road. A deputy on the scene confirmed that a body had been found in area accessible only by foot or all-terrain vehicle.

The discovery is in the vicinity of where deputies and volunteers had been searching for missing local restaurant owner Lucas Vance, who had not been seen since late October. A surveillance camera showed him entering his home on Oct. 29, but he had not been seen since. The official ground search was called off on Nov. 3, but volunteers continued to look for Vance.

The Johnson City Press has a reporter at the base. Sheriff Mike Hensley was addressing media representatives about 7:20 p.m.

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