HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — For more than six months, the case of missing 5-year-old Summer Wells has captivated people across the country and even the world. It started with an endangered child alert issued by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on June 15, and the next day, progressed to an AMBER Alert that remains active today.
As a few community members gathered Tuesday afternoon at Borden Park in Kingsport to pray for the safe return of the missing Hawkins County girl, her parents have had the same prayers since she disappeared.
“Well, whoever has my daughter, I pray and hope that they have not harmed her and they bring her back to us safe and sound,” Summer’s mother Candus Bly Wells said in June.
That plea from Summer’s mom was echoed by her father months later.
“Me and Candus know for a fact that Summer was abducted, we know that,” Don Wells said in November.
From day one, however, law enforcement has maintained there is no evidence that she was abducted.
“However, all avenues continued to be explored, including foul play, and the very real possibility that she wandered off and became lost in the mountainous and rough terrain surrounding her home,” said the TBI in December.
The first ground search lasted almost two weeks, with law enforcement finding no evidence of an abduction.
“Like we said from day one, everything is still on the table. Everybody’s a person of interest until we find Summer,” Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said in November.
Questions remain after neighbors described their experiences from June 15.
“It was a jumbled mess, she was like, ‘Summer’s missing, I can’t find her,’ I’m like, ‘Look, I heard a scream earlier. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I’m looking for her now,” JodiSue Brown recalled. “But every day I wake up and I wonder what I could’ve done.”
The case and everyone surrounding Summer has been scrutinized on social media. Her parents often admit to receiving threats online.
“The only reason we put all of her pictures out there and the only reason we done all these things was to try to help find Summer, but it turned into a living nightmare,” Don Wells said.
People have banded together to put up posters, social media posts, and billboards to help find Summer.
“We need one person – one person – to say something. That’s all we need,” billboard organizer Brad Allen said, pleading anyone with information to come forward.
In early December, nearly six months after her disappearance, ground search crews returned to Beech Creek to search the area that was far too overgrown over the summer months to properly search. All to no avail.
“Investigators have executed numerous search warrants, collecting all potential evidence,” the TBI released in early December. “We’ve spoken with anyone and everyone associated with the Wells family, in some cases more than once. This includes neighbors, acquaintances, and those working in the area the day she disappeared.”
The case has left veteran law enforcement befuddled.
“I’ve been through a lot in the last forty-four years. Seen a lot, investigated a lot, but this is one of the top ones,” Lawson said.
Her parents have continued to beg for her return.
“We just wish Summer could come home,” Don Wells said.
Tuesday morning, News Channel 11 reached out to the TBI for an update in the investigation and was told there are no updates but that the investigation is active and ongoing.
“It’s an active and ongoing investigation. We’re not going to stop until we determine what happened to her. And we’re just taking it one day at a time,” TBI spokesperson Leslie Earhart said at a press conference in June.
Summer was reported missing from her home in the Beech Creek area of Hawkins County in June and the AMBER Alert for Summer Wells remains active.
Anyone with information on Wells is asked to contact the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at 423-272-7121 or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-TBI-FIND.