Two years ago Monday, Kansans first heard the name Lucas Hernandez. A lot has changed since then, but not enough according to his family.
On Monday they visited a memorial in rural Harvey County. The memorial developed after the discovery of Lucas Hernandez’ body at the site. Today it’s a place where his family comes to remember the good times with the boy they loved and lost.
“Look at those cheeks. I just want to squeeze them,” said Melissa Ortiz. “He’s such a doll!”
Ortiz never met Lucas Hernandez. She was one of hundreds of volunteers who spent three months searching for him in the spring of 2018.
“I have a son Lucas’ age, He just tugged at my heart, I felt like I’ve got to get out, to do something,” she said.
In the process she became a close family friend – meeting with his mother and grandmother at his memorial Monday to mark the second anniversary of his disappearance.
“He brought us all together,” she said. “He’s Wichita’s son. He’ll always be Wichita’s son.”
On this day, they brought treats and flowers to add to the memorial along with memories of better days. This peaceful, sunny day seems far away from the dark days of loss. But it’s not as far away as they might like.
Lucas’ mother and grandmother found themselves unable to speak with us for their tears.
“Nothing changed. It’s complete sadness,” Ortiz said. “We never met, but he’s a part of my life.”
Speaking for his family, she said they’re still in mourning, Lucas is still gone and, saddest of all, he’s not alone.
“More needs to happen,” Ortiz said. “There are so many cases of children dying everyday. Every time I look at the news, there’s a new child being beaten to death.”
They say its not only the Department of Children and Families they’d like to see doing more, but people’s attitudes that need to change. They’d like to see Kansans become more willing to intervene and speak out when they see a child in trouble.
Meanwhile, how Lucas died remains an unsolved crime after the main suspect took her own life.
Searchers only found Lucas when his father’s girlfriend eventually led a private investigator to the site. She later took her own life. Despite leaving behind several suicide notes, she never explained what happened.
That’s something that still angers those who love him today.
“They deserve closure,” Ortiz says of Lucas’ mother and grandmother. “It makes me angry she did that. We’ll never know. Nobody will ever know.”