CHURCH HILL, Tenn. (WJHL) — The future of the Summer Wells reward fund will be decided by a court, according to an official.
The Church Hill Rescue Squad has been overseeing the fund, which reportedly stood at just under $74,000 as of January 18.
On Thursday, the rescue squad’s board of directors met to address the future of the fund, just as it said it would do last January.
Rescue squad Capt. Tim Coup read a statement to News Channel 11 regarding the fund.
“There have been some questions raised in regards to distributing the reward fund,” Coup said. “We have been advised to and will be handing the reward fund money to the court, and ask them to determine the proper resolution of the matter. Upon advice of counsel, that is all I can say at this time.”
When News Channel 11 asked Coup which court he was referring to, he responded by saying, “This is the statement that I’m making.”
News Channel 11 again asked for clarification to which Coup said, “At this point, that’s all I can say.”
Later Thursday evening, News Channel 11 sought further clarification via the Church Hill Rescue Squad’s email.
Coup replied, and said that was all the information he could give right now, but said “more information will be contained in the legal pleadings expected to be filed next week.”
He did not clarify what would be decided in court, which court would rule on the fund or who represents the rescue squad as legal counsel.
The Wells’ family media manager sent a statement on behalf of Don Wells to News Channel 11 regarding Coup’s statement on the fund’s future.
“This is important to keep the reward fund. This is our daughter. People gave money for Summer, to help. The case is still very active. Don’t take this from her,” the statement said.
Of the nearly $74,000 in the fund, a large chunk came from two donations of $25,000 and $10,000.
News Channel 11 learned a Fall Branch business owner named TR Ward made the $10,000 donation, providing a blank check for the fund on June 21 last year.
Ward provided messages on Facebook from the Church Hill Rescue Squad on May 31, asking if he wanted the check to “go on with the rest of the funds” or be returned to him. The rescue squad said the account would be closed on June 15.
Ward, who did not wish to appear on camera, had the check returned. He said the check would continue to be available if Summer was found or recovered.
The fund through Civis Bank was set up in late June 2021 and was originally set to expire after six months. At that time, the rescue squad said the money would be donated to the Child Advocacy Center for Hawkins County at the deadline.
However, the rescue squad decided to extend it through June 15, 2022. The rescue squad said that once the deadline was reached, its board of directors would review the fund.
In January, the rescue squad said none of the money would remain in its possession.
The fund was established for information leading to the return of Summer Wells, who still has not been found over a year after she was reported missing from her home in the Beech Creek community of Hawkins County.
Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told News Channel 11 the law enforcement investigation of Summer’s disappearance has been and remains separate from the reward fund.