ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – In a Thursday court filing, the Church Hill Rescue Squad (CHRS) formally requested to freeze donations into the Summer Wells Reward Fund and to surrender the current total to the court.
According to Hawkins County Chancery Court documents obtained by News Channel 11, multiple defendants have been named in a petition for a declaratory judgment that would determine the fate of the fund. The petition was filed with a lead statement that reads as followed:
“This is a cause which implicates the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” as a sardonic commentary on the frequency with which acts of kindness backfire on those who offer them. Plaintiff brings this cause for the purpose of determining a question of actual controversy among the parties; and for cause of action aver as follows:”
Erwin attorney Lois Shults-Davis said declaratory judgments are used to settle issues not fitting of standard lawsuits.
“They want to give relief to everyone so they can know what their rights and privileges are, where they stand basically with regard to a controversy,” Shults-Davis said of declaratory judgments.
The rescue squad also seeks the court act as an interpleader, bringing all parties connected to the reward money to the courtroom.
“The idea of an interpleader is that you’ll bring in anyone into that lawsuit that needs to be involved in it in order to resolve these issues and determine with certainty that the plaintiff is acting appropriately in what it does with the money,” Shults-Davis said. “They’re impleading it into the court to say we don’t know what to do with this money, so you take it and determine all the rights of all the parties and what needs to be done.”
Shults-Davis said based on the court documents, part of the request for interpleader involves a four-week period of notification in a Rogersville newspaper for any donors to come forward.
As of the document’s filing, Church Hill Rescue Squad — with the Law Office of May & Coup representing — stated those funds totaled $40,305.47.
“Disputed funds held on deposit at Civis Bank (now Thread Bank) ARE NOT all the funds that have been publicly alleged to be available for information leading to the recovery of Summer Wells,” the document reads. “But, they are the only funds of which Plaintiff Rescue Squad has possession.”
Other funds that increased the reported total were two checks for $25,000 and $10,000 that were returned to their original donors, the document says.
A vast majority of the funds in the CHRS’s possession were provided by donations from a Qiana Carlock, which the document said totaled $32,193.34. Those funds, in particular, led to the squad’s concern after an email was sent by a Fiona O’Connor alleging that Carlock had committed crimes by raising money for the fund without the rescue squad’s consent.
Due to the highly publicized nature of the fund and conflicting claims regarding the legality of Carlock’s fundraising, the CHRS requested that the Hawkins County Clerk and Master’s Office take control over all money in the account until the matter is settled and to freeze the account from further donations.
In the filing, CHRS requested the following defendants be barred from launching other lawsuits connected to the fund:
- Summer Wells Reward Fund Donors and Interested Parties
- Fiona O’Connor
- Qiana Carlock
- The Child Advocacy Center of the Third Judicial District
The document states that the true identity of both O’Connor and Carlock are not truly known, but are suspected not to be residents of Tennessee.
In a statement to News Channel 11, Carlock denied O’Connor’s claims saying, “There should be absolutely no dispute about the funds that I deposited into Civis Bank on behalf of The Summer Wells Army. Those are legit, honest donations from verifiable people, and they should not be held for anything other than to be given to the person who can lead to the recovery or Rescue of Summer wells.
Shults-Davis said declaratory judgments often protect the plaintiff, in this case Church Hill Rescue Squad, from further lawsuits.
“They want to make sure what they do has the stamp of approval of the court and that they’ve done the right thing with the money, and not paid it out in a way that’s not appropriate,” Shults-Davis said.
The reward fund began as a donation account at Civis Bank on June 28, 2021, the same day that Candus Bly first spoke publicly after Summer’s disappearance. Over the course of the investigation and search, the Church Hill Rescue Squad shared several updates on fund totals:
- In late July, 2021 the total reached $37,970.
- In August, the total funds had passed $40,000.
- In October, CHRS announced that totals had passed $58,000.
- In November, the fund had topped $70,000.
- In December, the fund was approaching $74,000.
As the October deadline approached, Don Wells, Summer’s father, spoke with News Channel 11 to request that the fund be extended. That same day, the rescue squad announced they would extend it an additional six months to be active for a full year.
Since it was first announced, the rescue squad stated its intention to donate the funds to the Child Advocacy Center if Summer was not found within that time.