Nonprofit group asking to keep search area confidential in Summer Wells case to protect investigation

Search for Summer Wells

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – After local crews limited search efforts in the Beech Creek community, Equusearch Midwest returned to dig deeper.

Summer Wells was reported missing the night of June 15. Equusearch Midwest joined local crews in the initial search for the missing 5-year-old, but according to Incident Commander Tim Coup, the group alerted authorities about a week ago that they would be returning.

“They’re solely doing this on their own, there’s nothing- there’s no leads, there’s nothing credible that would bring them back in; they’re wanting to come back and volunteer more time for the Summer Wells case,” Coup told News Channel 11.

Local officials and Equusearch Midwest leaders have asked the public not to photograph search efforts or post on social media the exact location of the group’s search area this weekend.

“It’s still an ongoing investigation so every part, whether it be on the search side of it, the law enforcement side of it, every part of that it goes into the investigation itself. Even our searches that we’ve searched that’s confidential, private information. Due to the investigation is ongoing, that’s all I can say on that,” Coup added.

Director of Equusearch Midwest David Rader told News Channel 11 Saturday that’s it’s more complicated than just trying to keep a search area confidential.

“Right now, we just have to concentrate on what the business at hand is – the reason why we don’t want anybody to know where we are is because we don’t want anything moved afterward because we really don’t know who all the players of the game are,” Rader explained.

He said things done after the locations of a specific search area are disclosed could be detrimental to the investigation.

“If it does turn out to be foul play, then we don’t want to sit there and cover an area, have it shown that we covered it, and then have some sort of evidence moved to the area that we just cleared because we’re not going to go back unless there’s something to bring us back to it. So that’s the main reason why we don’t want to disclose where we were searching at this point,” he said.

Rader pointed out that people on social media have tried to take videos of search efforts or have tried to post where they have spotted crews in the vicinity of the Beech Creek area.

“With them disclosing it, they’re not hurting me. They’re not hurting law enforcement, they’re hurting Summer. They’re hurting that end of this, so that’s what they have to take into consideration as far as their actions. They’re not hurting anybody but Summer. If this does turn out to be foul play, and they post something on social media, that could put somebody that is behind bars – can make them walk free, and that’s something that we’re working too hard to for one. Our goal is to find Summer, everything else will fall into place,” he added.

Crews are set to search a wider area in the Beech Creek community than just around the Wells home, Rader said.

He added that if Summer is not found or no evidence is gathered as a result of the search this weekend, Equusearch Midwest would return to Hawkins County.

The group is a nonprofit that runs solely on donations.

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