ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — The updated flyers of missing Hawkins County 5-year-old Summer Wells tell us all we need to know — almost five months after her disappearance, her fate remains a mystery.
News Channel 11 has led coverage and access as we’ve taken you to Summer’s front door for conversations with her parents and a community that wants her found.
Thursday and Friday, Summer’s parents, Don Wells and Candus Bly, will appear on Dr. Phil in their first national TV interview. News Channel 11 compiled a timeline of events, beginning from the initial missing child report to the continued search for Summer Wells.
“Summer Wells is missing. She’s 5 years old, four-foot-tall, blonde hair — last seen wearing a pink shirt and gray pants,” said Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson on June 15, just a few hours after Summer was reported missing around 6:30 p.m. that night.
That late-night announcement launched a massive ground search at first light the next day.
“With the steep and dangerous terrain, we’re also experiencing very dense canopy coverage, including very dense ground cover causing search efforts to be very difficult,” said Capt. Tim Coup of the Church Hill Rescue Squad who served as the Incident Commander of Search Operations during the extensive weeks-long ground search.
Summer’s father, Don Wells, spoke with News Channel about the disappearance of his daughter, revealing that he believes “some bad person grabbed her.”
Daily media briefings continued for 10 consecutive days.
“While every case is different, this one is definitely outside of the norm,” said Tennessee Bureau of Investigations spokesperson Leslie Earhart on June 24 at the agency’s final press conference. “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.”
Two days later on June 26, the TBI announced they were searching for a late-model red Tacoma truck seen in the area at the time Summer went missing. The agency stressed the driver was not a suspect, but a potential witness.
On June 28, News Channel 11 heard from Summer’s mother for the first time.
Candus Bly’s only daughter had been missing almost two weeks.
“Me and my mother and her were planting flowers, and we went in after we got done washing our hands, and she got a piece of candy from grandma,” Bly told News Channel 11 in her first on-camera interview. “And she wanted to go back over and see her brothers, and I said, ‘OK,’ and I walked her all the way over to the porch, and I watched her walking into the kitchen where the boys were watching TV. I told the boys, I said, ‘Watch Summer; I’ll be back.’ And within two minutes, I came back, and I asked the boys where their sister was, and they said, ‘She went downstairs, Mom, to play with her toys in the playroom.’ I said, ‘OK.’ And I yelled downstairs for her a couple times, and I didn’t get no answer, which was unusual because usually she always answers me. And so, I went down there to check, and she was nowhere in sight.”
Bly told News Channel 11 she believed Summer had been abducted.
Well, whoever has my daughter, I pray they haven’t harmed her and they bring her back to us safe and sound.Candus Bly, mother of missing 5-year-old Summer Wells
The same day Candus spoke on camera, the reward fund was finalized through the Church Hill Rescue Squad. Authorities also closed the active search.
The Church Hill Rescue Squad announced on July 27 that it would no longer be the lead agency orchestrating any search efforts for Summer, announcing the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office as the primary agency.
On July 21, a spokesperson with the Department of Children’s Services confirmed that the department was involved in the Summer Wells investigation.
Amid the continued search, dozens of community members met weekly to pray for Summer’s return and offer support for the family.
On July 29, Bly confirmed with News Channel 11 that her sons had been in the custody of the Department of Child Protective Services since the previous week. Don Wells had also confirmed their older sons were taken by Child Protective Services, but he wouldn’t give the reason.
The reward fund for information leading to Summer’s location stood at $37,970 at the end of July.
At the start of August, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office posted to Facebook stating that no psychics had been used in the search for Summer.
On Aug. 11, Lawson said in a video posted by the TBI that the search for Summer was certainly not over, despite concerns and speculations.
In September, Summer was featured on In Pursuit with John Walsh.
The Summer Wells reward fund also surpassed $40,000.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced that months of searching had yielded no clues as to Summer’s whereabouts.
“No trespassing” signs were posted around the Wells family Beech Creek home.
More than 100 days after his daughter disappeared, Summer’s father, Don Wells, wanted to speak with News Channel 11 on Oct. 4. Wells said he was not pleased with the expiration set for the reward fund.
“I feel bad for Summer,” Wells said. “I don’t know why they set it up like that.”
That same day, the Church Hill Rescue Squad’s reward fund was extended into the following year.
Almost a week later on Oct. 10, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office said they were still taking tips and looking for the red truck.
“Hi, this is Don and Candus Wells, and this is our YouTube Channel,” said Don Wells on a video posted Oct. 12 to their family YouTube channel almost four months after their daughter was reported missing.
The channel was created in conjunction with the family’s website, FindSummerWells.com.
“I hope and pray to God we can find our daughter. We can’t thank you enough,” said Wells on a Youtube video posted Oct. 13. “There’s nothing we can do to thank y’all enough. But just to thank you and praise our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
On Oct. 27, the Church Hill Rescue Squad also announced that the reward fund had surpassed $58,000.
Social media stardom turned into a social embarrassment two weeks later. Don Wells was pulled over on a suspicion of DUI and arrested live on YouTube.
While in court for the DUI charge on Nov. 1, Wells was arrested on a violation of probation charge. He was later released on his own recognizance bond.
On that same day in court, News Channel 11 learned a gag order had been issued for the child protective services case involving the other Wells children.
“I have to stay off the YouTube thing or be very careful about if I do anything on Youtube from now on because I have lost control,” Wells said in an interview on Nov. 9. “I’ve done stupid things and for that, I apologize. I’m just trying to be right, focus on our church and the things that our family, that we so much enjoy together.”
The TBI tweeted on Nov. 10 that the agency had seen an uptick in misinformation surrounding the Summer Wells case, adding that the agency had executed search warrants and collected potential digital evidence.
The agency told the public to stick to the facts — all of which can be found on the TBI’s Summer Wells newsroom webpage.
Despite the thousands of tips since June 15, the search for Summer Wells continues.
The ongoing AMBER Alert lists the following details for Summer:
- Age: 5 years old
- Sex: Female
- Race: White
- Hair: Blond
- Eyes: Blue
- Height: 3′
- Weight: 40 lb.
- Missing from: Rogersville, Tennessee
- Missing since: June 15, 2021
The search for Summer Wells continues. For the latest developments, stay updated on News Channel 11’s Search for Summer tab at WJHL.com.