5 months later: Hawkins Co. sheriff says search for Summer Wells continues, but no signs point to abduction

Search for Summer Wells

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Since the night of June 15, almost five months after Summer Wells was reported missing, investigators don’t know much more about what happened to the 5-year-old girl.

“I assure you, we’ve done everything, when we were up there on that scene, everything humanly possible to do,” said Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson months since the weeks-long ground search in the Beech Creek Community was called off.

“From the manpower, the search, helicopters, the airplanes, tremendous amount of dogs, cadaver dogs, search dogs, search and rescue teams. We did everything humanly possible up there.”

His department, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they are continuing to follow tips and leads.

“I have one detective assigned to it and TBI has agents assigned to it as well,” he said. “We have the FBI partners on board. My detective, when he gets things come in that he needs to look at, then he will get other detectives to help him and follow up those leads.”

Lawson says his department receives calls almost daily about the missing girl.

“We get calls in here almost daily about people that think they may have seen her or have something they want us to look in to,” he said. “99% of these things that you see on social media or that’s called in here, we’ve already done numerous times.”

Throughout the investigation, authorities have stressed that social media has hindered the investigation.

“Majority of it has been a hindrance because a lot of the information that we get is the same information that we’ve gone over time after time after time, and we really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to social media because it has really nothing to do with this case; 99% of it’s false,” said Lawson. “It’d be better if they just put the facts that something can be proven instead of speculation and gut feelings.”

Summer’s parents and concerned community members believe she may have been abducted or trafficked.

“Everything is on the table, and everything is being looked at, and you would think that if things like abduction or human trafficking, someone, somewhere would’ve seen this little girl,” Lawson said. “As much media attention, social media attention across America, one person would have seen that and made a call. But, we’re not ruling it out.”

The FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Team even came to Beech Creek. It’s a team dedicated to investigative, technical, analytical and resource assistance on-site during non-family child abductions, ransom child abductions and mysterious disappearances of children.

“We brought the FBI CARD team in and everything they could find, there was no indication whatsoever of a child abduction,” Lawson shared.

The main piece of public information that was released was at the end of June when the TBI asked for help finding the driver of a Toyota pickup truck that was seen in the area around the time Summer went missing.

“You would think if somebody had seen something, they would come forward, even if they just had the truck and didn’t see anything,” Lawson said of the driver. “It may be somebody that has paid no attention to this or maybe somebody that’s got a criminal record and was driving and wasn’t supposed to be driving too.”

Months later, that truck and its driver haven’t been identified. However, Lawson did share more about the person who gave that information about that truck.

“It was somebody driving a company truck that a lot of officers here are familiar with this gentleman, and we believe that he actually saw it,” he said.

Almost five months, more than 1,500 tips and a massive ground search later, the question of where Summer Wells is still remains.

“Nothing pointing to abduction, nothing pointing to foul play, other than her walking out, outside the house and not being found is basically the main thing right now,” said Sheriff Lawson. “What actually happened to her? We’re still trying to find out.”

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation declined News Channel 11’s request for an interview. A spokesperson referred us to previously recorded interviews on their website saying those updates still stand.

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