OCEANA COUNTY, Mich.-- A family in Oceana County is finally getting some closure after a father of eight went missing last summer. James Hepworth was last seen leaving his job in Ludington on Aug. 1.
His van was found four days later in rural Wexford County. This week, police found human remains not far from where his truck was found. While investigators are still waiting on DNA to identify the body, the family says there's no doubt it's their dad.
The Hepworth family has been waiting eight months for answers. Now that they're getting some closure, they say all of the feelings from when he first went missing have come back. Police still haven't confirmed that the body found is Hepworth, but clothing and a gun belonging to James were found near the body, his wife Amanda Hepworth says.
Amanda and her children are adjusting to a new normal after her husband disappeared.
"For eight months we went almost every single day wondering if James was alive," said Amanda. "We didn't know if he was gone, if he had passed, if he was suffering somewhere or what was going on. You pretty much get to a point where you accept that he's likely gone, but then you worry if you're ever going to know."
On Tuesday, Michigan State Police found a body near the Wet Red Pine in Wexford County, about a mile from where his van was found last summer. Amanda says James had suffered from depression and believes he took his own life.
"The officer told us tentatively that they had found James, that the clothing was a match and some other things," said Amanda. "He said they needed to photograph and secure the area."
It's an area that had been looked at on Tuesday. It's one of several searches that have been conducted over the past several months.
"It's a relief, but it's the same pain all over again from back in August," said 15-year-old Mikayla Hepworth, James' daughter.
The family says the hardest part is letting go of the hope they've been holding on to for so long.
"Once they said they found human remains, that hope is gone," said Amanda. "As the mom, I see their heartaches and you want to take that pain away. There's so many times I wanted to give up looking for James, but I knew I had to bring him home. I need my kids to know where their dad is."
Now, the family is planning a funeral. They are hoping to raise money with help from the community for a proper burial.
"We needed to bring him home," said Amanda. "Now we get to bring him home."
The family says they're going to have a funeral for James in a few months once police identify the body. They're going to leave some of his ashes at Ludington State Park, an area where he loved to hike.
If you'd like to donate to the family's fundraising page to help raise money for a funeral, click here.