ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — As Summer Wells’ disappearance enters the national spotlight again, one goal among all involved remains the same: that she will be found and found safe. Summer has captured the hearts of many, but the search has taken a toll on both investigators and Summer’s family.
“We would rather not do these things at all. We’d rather our lives just go back to normal, and we just wish Summer could come home,” said Summer’s father Don Wells in his first on-camera interview after returning home from filming for Dr. Phil.
Wells says the trip to Los Angeles brought up a lot of pain from the months his daughter went missing.
“It just brought up a lot of emotion, very emotional,” he said.
The older children of the Wells family are in the custody of Child Protective Services, a continual reminder of their lives being upside down, especially during the filming in California.
“All these kids running around on that beach, just having an awesome time and here we are alone. Well, it seems like alone when you don’t got your kids, when you’ve had them all this time and then all the sudden you don’t have them,” he recalled of a trip he and his wife, Candus Bly, took to the beach when in California.
As Summer’s parents made their plea on national television for people to share information about what happened to their daughter, media requests to investigators about the case from Beech Creek have also piled in.
“The media not only in upper East Tennessee but Middle Tennessee and Fox News and everybody else contact me and my office for information about this,” said Hawkins Co. Sheriff Ronnie Lawson.
News Channel 11 asked Lawson if he had ever encountered anything like the disappearance of Summer Wells in his career.
“Talking about a missing child?” he responded. “To this magnitude, no. I’ve been through a lot in the last 44 years, seen a lot, investigated a lot, but this is one of the top ones.”
The magnitude, which also spread to social media and content creation on Youtube, often allowed rumors to spread.
“Majority of it has been a hindrance because a lot of the information that we get is the same information that we’ve went over, time after time after time,” Lawson said. “We really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to social media because it has really nothing to do with this.”
Lawson said this case has taken a toll on his department beyond the man-hours put in.
“It’s very hard on myself and all my staff, my detective division. We’re all fathers and grandfathers, and the thoughts of losing one of ours plus having to deal with not being able to find one, a five-year-old young lady, that we don’t know exactly what happened to her,” he said. “We don’t know where she is and that leaves a void in your life because we want to find her. That’s been the goal from day one is to find Summer.”
Even when in California for Dr. Phil, that wonder of what happened to Summer also weighs heavy.
“The beach is just so beautiful and you realize Summer is somewhere that she probably doesn’t want to be, probably locked up or being hurt in some way,” Wells said. “And we’re there on that beautiful beach and our daughter is probably who knows where.”