UPDATE: On Dec. 16, 2019, authorities said they believed they have found the body of Luc Vance, who had been missing since Oct 29, 2019, NBC affiliate WCYB of Bristol, Virginia, reported.
It was reported that a private investigator hired by the family discovered a backpack belonging to Vance in a rugged area off Little Mountain Road. A body was found nearby, Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley told WCYB. The body was taken to East Tennessee State University pending an autopsy and formal identification.
Lucas "Luc" Vance took over running the family business from his parents five years ago. Maple Grove Restaurant is a staple in Unicoi, Tennessee — known for its home-cooked Southern food.
After a long day of working at the restaurant on Oct. 29, 2019, Luc, 35, is seen on home-security video walking into his house on Marbleton Road that evening around 9:55 p.m. He hasn't been seen or heard from since.
"We never dreamed we'd be on day 48 of Luc missing," Luc's cousin, Brandy Brinkley, told Dateline. "We just need to find him."
Brandy told Dateline that Luc's mother opened the restaurant the next morning, on Oct. 30, and waited for Luc to show up at 10 so she could go to a hair appointment.
Luc never showed up.
Family members, including Brandy, were called to go check on Luc around 11 a.m. Brandy, who lives less than a half-mile from her cousin, said his truck was in the driveway and the front door of the house was locked. The back door was unlocked.
Brandy said she thought it was strange that Luc's TV was paused in the middle of a movie. His phone was face down on the floor, and money, a lighter and change were on the footrest in front of the couch. She added that his license, debit card and money he kept tied with a rubber band in his front pocket were also left behind.
Brandy said they also noticed there were two different types of pony liquor bottles — one was Goldschlager, which she said Luc was known to drink on occasion, and the other was Fireball, which she said Luc was not known to drink.
Family members immediately started searching for Luc.
"Our first thought was that maybe he went for a walk in the woods and got hurt," Brandy said, adding that Luc is very familiar with the forested area around his home. "We searched the woods around his house but couldn't find him."
Brandy told Dateline she called to report Luc missing at 1:15 p.m. Since that day, the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department, Unicoi police, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, members of the Unaka Mountain Search & Rescue unit and a large number of community volunteers have been involved in the search.
Ten days into the search for Luc, four pages of notes were found in his safe. Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley told NBC affiliate WCYB of Bristol, Virginia, that the notes suggested he may have been planning to harm himself.
Brandy and several of Luc's other family members disagree.
"Yes, he was depressed," Brandy said. "And those letters were descriptive that he was depressed, and it was on his mind, but they never stated that this was goodbye."
Brandy told Dateline her cousin was noticeably depressed when his wife filed for divorce in July. They had been married for six years and had two daughters together.
"He was devastated, of course, but he had low days and then he had good days," Brandy said. "But he lived for those girls. And he would not have left them."
Brandy, who told Dateline she spoke to her cousin often, described Luc as outgoing and kindhearted.
"He's a simple, sweet country guy who loves the outdoors and would just do anything for anyone," Brandy said.
Brandy told Dateline she thinks foul play could be involved and that someone is making it look like a suicide.
"Our thinking is someone came to the door, or lured him outside, and hurt him, or worse," she said.
Luc's family members say they will continue to search the woods for Luc, and they are also hiring a private investigator.
"We appreciate every little bit of help we can get," Brandy said. "We just need him home."
Hensley said he will not give up the search until Luc is found.
Luc is described as being 5 feet, 2 inches tall, weighing 190 pounds, with green eyes and short brown hair.
For updates on Luc's case, visit the Please Help Us Find Luc Vance Facebook page.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Luc Vance is urged to call the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department at (423) 743-1850.