ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Flyers about missing Hawkins County child Summer Wells tell us all we need to know — nearly a year after her disappearance, her fate remains a mystery. Organized searches have not been successful in turning over new leads.
WATE‘s sister station, News Channel 11, has been following the story since Summer’s disappearance was first reported in June 2021. They compiled a timeline of events in the months following Summer’s disappearance, beginning with the latest information.
Kingsport Police is not the lead investigative agency in the Wells case, but they are trained on equipment being used in the search for Summer Wells. Officers demonstrated how drones are used to find missing people.
Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office detective John Pruitt, the lead investigator in the Summer Wells case, spoke about the case for the first time.
Self-proclaimed investigators and ‘social sleuths’ have turned the case into a ‘mess of ideas’ that has brought tips from across the U.S. and overseas, he said.
A series of small-scale planned searches in the Beech Creek community have not resulted in any new leads or updates in the Summer Wells case, according to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Leslie Earhart.
In March, Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told media that Wells and Bly are ‘not cooperating right now.‘
Don Wells is sentenced to jail time for a DUI arrest that happened in October. Because it was a violation of probation, the judge gave Wells 11 months and 29 days in the Hawkins County Jail. He may be eligible for early release, however.
In the courtroom, Wells passed News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais a note that read, ” Thanks to everyone for all positive support. It’s been very difficult.”
Candus Bly reported Don Wells for domestic assault in January, according to police reports. The family is facing pressure from a cult-like following on social media. A Kingsport Police investigation began after a child unrelated to the case was recorded on video by a woman visiting the Wells’ church. The video was posted on YouTube but later taken down.
“Let the police do their job. I mean, you know, I feel that they’re just making a mockery out of everything for their YouTube channel and personal gain,” Wells said.
Church Hill Rescue Squad announces the reward fund for information about Summer Wells was nearing $74,000.
“Church Hill Rescue Squad will not be receiving any of these funds or benefit from the reward effort for Summer Wells,” a spokesman for the department said, clearing up rumors.
Meanwhile multiple protestors showed up at a construction site where Don Wells was working and began yelling at him and Bly. Summer Wells’ parents had to leave the due to the harassment, a police report states.
Don Wells spoke in January about how social media sleuths have scared the family and disrupted his work.
Law enforcement held several searches in the December. A TBI spokeswoman said the return to ground searches was part of a plan to take advantage of winter weather, when foliage was less dense. No new developments are reported.
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
Authorities say nearly 400 people go missing in Tennessee each year. That’s 5 people for every 100,000. Check this list of people missing from East Tennessee to see if you can help locate someone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.