‘Come on home.’ NC family still hopeful mother will return 20 years after disappearing

Markeveus Nance gave his mother a hug and told her he loved her. When she walked away that night of June 19, 2001, the 16-year-old boy sitting alone at a picnic table didn’t know it would be the last time he’d see her.

Lillian Lawren Nance left her mother’s birthday party in Gastonia on Sunshine Avenue to go buy cigarettes. She never came back, her older sister, Carolyn Nance, said. Although the 20th anniversary of her disappearance passed on Saturday, Lillian Nance’s family remains hopeful she’ll return home.

Lillian Nance, right, with her then-7-year-old son, Markeveus, and her older sister Carolyn Nance in an undated photo.

“I’m not going to give up hope,” Markeveus Nance, who’s now 36, told the Observer on Monday. “Although it’s been 20 years, anything is possible. I still believe she’s out there and hopefully she comes home one day.”

Lillian would be 52 today. She has brown eyes, measured 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds when she disappeared, according to Gastonia police.

Markeveus Nance said his family contacted police once they realized his mother was missing. As police searched for her, the family put up flyers around the city to spread word of her disappearance. The flyers led to a tip of a possible sighting in Atlanta, but multiple trips to the Georgia city didn’t lead to her whereabouts, he said.

Carolyn Nance said 9/11 may have halted the police’s search for her younger sister, because before the attacks, “they had cadaver dogs looking for her in Rankin Lake in August”, she said.

Lillian Nance also had been in an “abusive relationship,” her sister said. Nance was in the hospital days before the party, she said.

“We know who done it,” Carolyn Nance said. “He done something to her. It’s time for him to fess up.”

Gastonia police would not confirm information about Lillian Nance’s disappearance, including what she was wearing or who she was with at the time she went missing.

“We understand the family wants closure in this case,” a department spokesperson told the Observer in an email Friday. “This is a cold case investigation and detectives are still following up when leads come available. And we are still seeking information from the community.”

‘It was always just me and her’

Markeveus Nance said he has no idea where his mother could have gone because most of their family lives in Charlotte, Gastonia or Rock Hill.

“It’s not like her to leave and not stay in touch,” he said.

On Sunday, the family gathered along Sunshine Avenue in Gastonia for a balloon release to bring awareness to Lillian Nance’s disappearance. Her son hadn’t been on Sunshine Avenue in years.

“It was really hard,” he said. “That was the last place I seen her walk down the road out of sight.”

If his mother does reappear, Markeveus said he would tell her that he loves her and “to come on home.” If she doesn’t want to come home, he said he hopes she calls lets him know she’s OK.

“I’m an only child so it was always just me and her,” he said.

Anyone with information about this case can call police Detective Lopera at 704-866-6939 or the Gaston County Crime Stoppers tip line at 704-861-8000.