The thought of what may have happened to his missing wife Veronica is too much to take for Steve Casciato.
Did she get lost while on a hike, or did something more frightening take place?
The worry has been keeping him up every night since she vanished more than two weeks ago.
“You don’t have to have a lot of imagination to think about all the things that could have happened,” Steve Casciato told Dateline. “She just vanished. She is just gone.”
Veronica, 48, was last seen the morning of April 6, 2017 on the Harrogate campus of Lincoln Memorial University, where she was working towards a degree in social work. During the week, Veronica lived on campus in a dorm, took classes and was part of a work study program. On weekends, she’d drive the roughly one and a half hours to her and her husband’s Cosby home.
Veronica had spent that Thursday morning working her shift in the library from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. She was spotted leaving campus around noon in her 2010 white Toyota Corolla, presumably to run some errands and get gas. The last purchase on her debit card was at a gas station just off campus.
When family and friends couldn’t get a hold of her later that day, it wasn’t unusual. Veronica had a paper to finish, Steve said. A storm had also moved into the area, giving him issues with his cell phone. Not getting a call from her that night didn’t set him into a panic.
But the next day, she never showed up for a scheduled field trip with her class to a homeless shelter, an event she had been telling several people she was excited to attend. The instructor called Steve, asking if he had heard from his wife.
“I said no, that I didn’t know where she was. That was alarming because she wouldn’t have missed that,” Steve told Dateline. “She was never even late to things.”
Concern quickly grew from there. Veronica didn’t show up to their home that night or the next day. Concerned calls were made to her other family members and friends. No one had heard from her. She was supposed to head to a concert with her daughter that Sunday. She didn’t show up for that, either.
Steve called the campus police department, which performed a welfare check. Eventually, Steve learned Veronica wasn’t in her dorm room either. Her belongings, including her clothes and computer, were still there, though. Steve drove to campus to look for her himself. Veronica’s sister and brother-in-law joined him there.
But there were no signs anywhere of what had happened.
That’s how the situation remained for several weeks. “Nobody found anything. Not a candy wrapper, not an item of clothing. Nothing,” Veronica’s husband Steve said. “We just had nothing to go on for weeks.”
Then, last Tuesday, authorities identified Veronica’s vehicle. A turkey hunter reportedly had spotted it several weeks earlier, parked just off Highway 165 in Eagle Gap. It wasn’t unusual to see cars parked in that spot, so he didn’t sound an alarm.
But when he drove by the same place last Tuesday night, the Corolla was still there. The man’s wife had seen the news and recognized the vehicle. They called authorities.
The area is a hot spot for reports of missing hikers. Perhaps, many thought, Veronica headed out alone and got lost. Multiple agencies responded, including K-9 search teams and a helicopter. The search was called off later last week with no solid leads as to Veronica’s whereabouts.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations is now working jointly on the investigation with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office. Officials with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office didn’t return Dateline’s request for comment Monday.
Family members continue to hold out hope. Although authorities have said they do not suspect anything suspicious at this time, Veronica’s loved ones fear her good-natured manner may have led her to trust someone with sinister intentions.
“She would do anything for anyone. She could pick up hitchhikers, even though I told her not to. She just trusted people,” husband Steve told Dateline.
It is apparent online how loved Veronica is. She’s spent years volunteering for numerous local organizations. She was hoping to help even further after finishing her degree. Eventually, she wanted to get her master’s degree. She’s a nature lover who enjoys long drives down back roads. She isn’t the type to run off without telling anyone her plans.
Those close to her now simply hope someone will recognize her face and help bring her home.
“I wish it were me and not her,” Veronica’s husband Steve told Dateline. “I’d do anything to bring her home. Anything.”
Veronica Casciato is described as 5’4” tall, weighing 120 lbs., with short brown hair and blue eyes. She wears glasses and has a tattoo of a fairy on her upper right arm.
Anyone with information regarding Veronica’s case is urged to call the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at (615) 744-4000 or the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office at (423) 626-3385. You can also visit the Facebook page ‘Friends of Veronica Casciato’ for more information.