TBI: Summer Wells case ‘outside of the norm’ as circumstances surrounding disappearance remain unclear

Search for Summer Wells

Investigators ‘can’t discuss everything’ in ongoing search

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Investigators say the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of missing Hawkins County 5-year-old Summer Wells remain unclear and that is “outside of the norm” for a missing child case.

Officials gave an update Thursday on the search for Wells, who was reported missing from her home in the Beech Creek community on June 15.

“While every case is different, this one is definitely outside of the norm,” said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Leslie Earhart. “Typically in an investigation like this one, we have some idea of where the case is headed and what might have happened within a few days. In this situation, despite doing everything within our power and exploring all avenues, the circumstances leading to Summer’s disappearance remain unclear.”

“I understand the lack of answers frustrates you and the public, but trust me, no one is more frustrated than we are.”

While Earhart said that investigators can’t discuss everything they are doing in order to preserve the investigation, she did highlight some things they have done in the search for answers.

“Numerous residents and individuals associated with the family have been interviewed. Surveillance video and photos have been reviewed as well as other potential digital evidence,” Earhart said. “We’re still working to identify everyone in the area on the afternoon that Summer went missing.”

Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said “you’d have to work very hard to find somebody we haven’t talked to.”

Earhart was asked if she thought Wells was still alive.

“We hope so, but honestly we just don’t know,” she said. “We’re holding out hope, doing everything we can. Obviously, we typically would’ve found a child at this stage in the investigation, so honestly we just don’t know.”

Sheriff Lawson said the family remained “very cooperative” with law enforcement. Summer Wells’ father told News Channel 11 on Tuesday that his wife passed a lie detector test.

“It’s no secret that the TBI has a polygraph unit,” Earhart said. “We don’t discuss specifics, but I can tell you that we use that as an investigative tool. In a situation like this, we’re going to use every resource and tool available to us.”

Lawson continued to encourage residents of upper Beech Creek in both Hawkins and Sullivan counties to thoroughly check their properties for the missing girl.

Searchers have covered 4.6 square miles so far and the search effort has involved more than 100 agencies from several states. Authorities have received well over 300 tips.

Capt. Tim Coup, who is overseeing the ground search, said the rough terrain and warm weather have exhausted search crews mentally and physically, but the search will continue with an “aggressive approach” and “extreme attention to detail.” He added that search efforts will continue on a “more specialized basis.”

“Just because you may not see us in such a large presence, once again, rest assured, we are still out here searching for Summer Wells,” Coup said.

“I’ve had most of my guys come up to me and tell me, ‘Captain, I’ll go to the end. But I’m tired. I am physically and I am mentally tired.’ We’re all one team and we will not quit until we find Summer Wells.”

Coup said some locations have been searched multiple times to ensure that nothing had been overlooked.

Summer Utah-Moon Wells went missing on Tuesday, June 15 around 6:30 p.m., and has been the subject of an AMBER Alert since the morning of June 16.

The TBI AMBER Alert reports Summer’s appearance as follows:

  • Age: 5
  • Sex: Female
  • Race: White
  • Hair: Blonde Eyes: Blue
  • Height: 3′
  • Weight: 40 lbs.
  • NCIC: M476287498
  • Missing From: Rogersville, Tennessee
  • Missing Since: June 15, 2021

Anyone with information regarding Wells’ whereabouts is urged to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

For complete coverage of the Search for Summer Wells, click here.

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