HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) provided an update on the ongoing search for missing Hawkins County child Summer Wells on Wednesday. In addition to speaking at a briefing, the bureau and Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) also handed out a Frequently Asked Questions sheet related to the investigation.
Summer Wells was first reported missing from her family home on Ben Hill Road in the Beech Creek community on June 15, 2021. One year later, the TBI states that the case is not considered cold and the AMBER Alert issued for Summer remains active.
Was Summer Wells abducted?
As of Wednesday, the TBI and HCSO stated there is no evidence that developed to indicate Summer was abducted. The departments stressed that all possibilities are being investigated, though.
In December 2021, the TBI released a video recapping the search for Summer up to that point. In the video, a TBI public information officer stated that all possibilities were being examined, “including foul play and the very real possibility that she wandered off and became lost in the mountainous and rough terrain surrounding her home.”
Which places have been searched?
Among the questions featured on the FAQ sheet include inquiries regarding the searches conducted on the Wells property. Investigators said they have searched all through the residence, including the home’s basement, the crawl space, all of the vehicles, outbuildings, barrels and other places. Investigators state K9 teams who specialize in several different types of search have been used.
The TBI also addressed a rumor regarding a search through a flower bed on the Wells property. According to the FAQ sheet, there is not actually a flower bed at the home; rather, the planted flowers that Summer’s mother and grandmother referred to on the day of her disappearance were all in pots. Investigators say they have examined those pots as well.
The FAQ sheet states three large-scale searches for Summer have been conducted in the last year, with dozens of smaller, targeted searches also occurring as leads are followed. Throughout those searches, dive teams were brought in to comb nearby bodies of water on multiple occasions.
The search efforts were not limited to the ground and water; according to the sheet, “numerous searches from the air” were completed, and drones have been used to map the area.
How much evidence has been collected?
Additionally, the TBI and HCSO say all available digital evidence, cell phone data and cell tower data has been collected and analyzed as part of the investigation.
On the matter of surveillance video, authorities stated on the sheet that photos and videos from multiple locations has been collected and analyzed. However, investigators reminded the media and the public that the Beech Creek area is “very rural, with few businesses and no traffic cameras.”
After a year of trying to find Summer, investigators say points of interest will still be searched as they follow up on tips.
Who has been questioned?
In regards to questioning, the TBI and HCSO state that several parties have been interviewed. Both Candus Bly and Don Wells, Summer’s parents, have both been questioned on more than one occasion, the fact sheet states.
In March 2022, Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told News Channel 11 that the Wells family was ‘not cooperating right now.” On Wednesday, however, a TBI spokesperson said investigators would not speak to the family’s level of cooperation, citing the potential to stir rumors.
The FAQ sheet also answers questions related to other people at the Wells home. Investigators say they have questioned Summer’s brothers, who were previously removed from the home by children’s services. Additionally, authorities report they interviewed other people who stayed at the home in the months before Summer disappeared.
Both neighbors and registered sex offenders living in the area have also been questioned, according to the sheet.
Is the FBI helping in the search?
Investigators stated in the sheet that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is continuing to assist in the ongoing case. The FBI has been involved in the investigation since Summer’s AMBER Alert was first issued in 2021.
The FBI also deployed its Child Abduction Rapid Development team to Beech Creek during the first week of Summer’s disappearance.
Did the driver of the red/maroon truck ever come forward?
The TBI first announced the bureau was seeking the driver of a Toyota truck on June 26 of last year. A person who frequents the area as part of his job told investigators he had seen a red or maroon Toyota Tacoma with a full bed ladder rack and white buckets in the area of Beech Creek Road and Ben Hill Road.
However, the person who provided the information could not recall if he had seen the truck parked in the area on the day Summer went missing or if it were the day before. The truck was not captured on any surveillance, the FAQ sheet states.
The driver was sought as a “potential witness,” and the TBI stressed the driver was not a suspect but may have been able to provide information.
“Our hope was that the individual might have information that could help the investigation,” the sheet reads. “The driver has not come forward, nor have the hundreds of vehicles reported to us as matching the description panned out.”
You can read the full FAQ sheet below:
The TBI continues to ask that any credible tips in the case be reported by calling 1-800-TBI-FIND.