Search ends in Monroe County, LMU student still missing

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MONROE COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Detectives believe a car that belonged to a missing LMU student, 48-year-old Veronica Casciato, was found off of Highway 165 in Monroe County. Hunters said they had seen the car there weeks ago, and when they returned to the site and saw it again, they called 911.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office ended the search in the area of Eagle Gap at around 4:30 p.m. and said they have exhausted all resources and now think Casciato is not in the area.

Local 8 News learned Thursday that Casciato is a work study student at LMU and worked a shift in the library the day she disappeared. Her boss told Local 8 News that Casciato worked between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and was last seen leaving campus around noon.

Her boss, Katy Hiney, said Casciato was a very kind and open person, and she fears that perhaps Veronica helped the wrong person.

"I know that she was a very open kind-hearted person, and the only thing that I really worry about is that somebody may have taken advantage of that," said Hiney.

Casciato's father said his emotions are in a 'dead zone,' and he does wish the search had lasted longer.

"They know what they are doing. I have to trust them to run their investigation, but I would have been encouraged if they had stayed at it just a little longer," said Casciato's father Mike Machen.

Machen continued, "I am still holding on to hope that they find her alive, I'm hoping they find her alive and a little banged up and bring her out of there and into the emergency room."

A few minutes after 6 p.m. Tuesday night, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office received a call about an abandoned vehicle near Eagle's Gap. After learning about the make and model of the vehicle, deputies called the Claiborne County Sheriff's Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Officials said they think the car may have been there for a couple of weeks now. They believe the car arrived there on either April 7 or April 8.

The TBI is currently inspecting the car and said they can not comment on any potential evidence collected.

Captain Chris White with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said multiple agencies were joined by 20 to 30 people searching in the woods for signs of Casciato.

White said the department often responds to lost hikers in the area.

"She could very easily be held up somewhere," Chris White of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said. "This is pretty common that hikers get lost."

Multiple agencies, including the Knox County Sheriff's Office chopper, a canine division from North Carolina and the U.S. Forestry Service searched for foot prints, broken tree limbs, food wrappers or anything that could lead to the path Casciato may be near.

The search was called off around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Anyone with information about Casciato's whereabouts is urged to call the Claiborne County Sheriff's Office at (423) 626-2820.