What happened to 5-year-old Summer Wells? What we know after more than a week since her disappearance

Search for Summer Wells

Tennessee AMBER Alert – Summer Wells (Photos: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN/WJHL) – It’s been more than a week since Summer Wells was first reported missing. Here’s a look at some of the major developments that have played out as the search for the five-year-old Rogersville girl and the investigation into her disappearance continue.

What Summer Wells looks like

Summer Moon-Utah Wells is 3-feet tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was reported to be barefoot and wearing a pink shirt and gray shorts before she went missing.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation provided the following description of her:

  • 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

Summer’s mother, Candus Bly, provided News Channel 11 with the following photos on Monday, June 21:

When and where was Summer last seen?

She was first reported as last seen Tuesday, June 15 near her home on Ben Hill Road in the Beech Creek community, wearing a pink shirt and gray shorts.

According to her father, Donald Wells, Summer was planting flowers just before her disappearance. He spoke with News Channel 11 about what he remembers that night.

“She was planting flowers with her mother and her grandmother and she wanted to go into the house, so my wife watched her go into the door and she went into the house,” Wells said. “And the boys were on the internet of course, and she wanted to go downstairs and play with her toys. So when her mother [came] in and she says, ‘Summer’ and she went down into the basement and she didn’t answer. So she went down there and she was gone.”

Wells said they haven’t seen Summer since.

In further interviews, Wells said he himself was at work when she was last seen and had not interacted with her since the day before.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said a family member reported her missing to the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

TBI first issued an Endangered Child Alert before the AMBER Alert

After Summer was reported missing, the TBI issued an Endangered Child Alert for her at 12:07 a.m. At the time she was reported to be four years old in TBI’s first tweet.

On Wednesday, June 16, TBI chose to upgrade the alert to a statewide AMBER Alert for Summer at 11:08 a.m. because of “new information and growing concern.”

On the same day, TBI issued updated photos of Summer that the agency said best represented the five-year-old’s current appearance and hair length.

Photos: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

TBI: No evidence currently points to an abduction

While Summer’s father thinks “someone snuck up on her and grabbed her,” TBI Public Information Officer, Leslie Earhart, reiterated on Monday that the circumstances leading to her disappearance remain unclear.

“While we’ve not ruled out an abduction, we simply do not have any evidence at this point to confirm that’s what occurred,” Earhart said. “For that reason, the ground search for Summer continues. It’s possible that she wandered off and is lost and afraid.”

As of Tuesday, the agency said they have received over 200 leads in the investigation. Foul play has also not been ruled out at this time.

Terrain and tech issues have impacted the search for Summer

During a June 17 press conference, two days after Summer was reported missing, Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said crews had faced issues communicating in the field.

“We can hardly communicate at all on our radios, and cell phones are out of the question,” Lawson said.

AT&T and Verizon have brought cell signal boosters to help increase reception, but Incident Commander of Ground Search Captain Tim Coup said service was “still spotty.”

Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee said some of the radios used by county law enforcement are between 15 and 20 years old, but a new system was recently purchased and ought to be installed within a few weeks.

Another issue crews have had to deal with is the area itself. The rough terrain presented a challenge in the search efforts early on. It’s also why, as Coup explained, investigators had not asked for volunteers to help in the search.

“Due to the extreme terrain, the nature of this, trying to locate her, trained professionals [are] what we need at this time to make sure that these residents don’t become endangered…and expand this issue with having to search for somebody else,” Coup said on June 17.

More than 80 agencies have assisted in the search – by land, water, and air

There have been more than 80 agencies involved in search efforts from Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. As of Tuesday, crews have covered 4.6 square miles in the search for Summer.

Aircraft units are being used to keep an eye on the area overnight when the ground search effort is paused unless crews are following up on a lead.

“At the evening time, it is too treacherous and too dangerous, unless TBI or the sheriff’s department gets a lead that they need us to go help assist on,” Coup said. “Too dangerous for us to keep our guys up in these mountains in this treacherous terrain at nighttime. But I want you guys to know, and rest assured, along with the community, that search efforts due to not stop when it gets dark.”

TBI tweeted on Tuesday that the search for Summer Wells will continue with a focus on specific areas using specialized teams.

Donald Wells (Courtesy: WJHL)

Summer’s mother filed for a protective order against her husband in 2020

In October 2020, Candus Bly filed for a protective order against her husband, Donald Wells, stating in court documents that she was “afraid for my children and myself.”

An arrest report from the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office states a deputy responded on October 14, 2020 to the Ben Hill Road home where Donald Wells lived with his wife and four children, including Summer, in Rogersville for a report of a domestic assault.

Wells was arrested and booked into the Hawkins County jail on multiple charges, including domestic assault, possession of a handgun while under the influence, and unlawful possession of a weapon.

The Hawkins County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office confirmed Wells pleaded guilty to the charge of possession of a handgun while under the influence but added the domestic assault and unlawful possession of a weapon charges were dropped in April.

Wells told News Channel 11 on Tuesday that he had been in Utah and that he and Bly, “weren’t on the same page” due to lack of communication.

“We worked it out, she’s apologized to me. She went to the district attorney, she even talked to the judge and told him that she made a serious mistake and, you know, that’s the end of it,” Wells said. “She didn’t get hurt and I never hurt nobody, so.”

Another warrant states the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Highway Patrol had also responded to the home on August 13, 2001, where the residence was searched and Wells was found hiding in a storage room. Wells was arrested for a parole violation out of Utah and charged with being a fugitive from justice.

Wells told News Channel 11 that his criminal history was in the past and did not comment on it further.

Who to contact if you have information on Summer Wells

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at 423-272-7121 or the TBI at 800-TBI-FIND.

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

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