HART, Mich. — An Oceana County family is holding out hope while preparing to spend their first holiday season without their dad.
James Hepworth was last seen on Aug. 1 leaving his job at Hayworth in the middle of the day. His van was found four days after he went missing in a rural area in Wexford County, but his wallet and a nine millimeter hand gun were never found.
For 16 weeks, Amanda Hepworth, James' wife, has been raising eight kids on her own. The hardest thing, she says, is she doesn't know if her husband is dead or alive. She's hoping for answers, but also hoping for letters of support and love for her kids as they continue each day without their father.
"There's still a lot of crying," said Amanda Hepworth. "Everybody misses the bike rides and the hugs. The kids are doing pretty well, but there's still a really big hole where he should be in their lives."
Amanda says even four months after he husband disappeared she doesn't know if he'll come through the front door one day.
"I'm responsible for helping eight kids mourn and grieve for their dad," said Hepworth. "We don't know if we're supposed to be grieving for him being deceased or if we need to just keep looking harder or if in five minutes somebody will come up the driveway and it's James in the passenger seat coming home."
Hepworth says James suffered from depression and experienced suicidal thoughts and was possibly leaving work that day to take his own life, but their kids living at home still pray their dad might return.
"It's very hard for me," said 15 year old Mikayla Hepworth, James' daughter. "Every time I think of the fact that he's not coming home or the large chance that he's not coming home I just break down. I miss him so much."
As the family tries to get through the holidays, Amanda hopes people will send Christmas cards with messages of hope, love and support for her children.
"I want to take a wall and fill the entire thing with cards from across the entire globe," said Amanda Hepworth. "Maybe some will say keep your chin up or we're thinking of you. The kids would be able to see that there's a lot of people that really care about them and see all of the different places that we get cards from."
If you want to send the Hepworth family a letter, you can mail it to: P.O. Box 122, Pentwater, MI, 49449.
If you know anything about where James Hepworth might be, call the Oceana County Sheriff's Department at 231-873-2121.