HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said there is no person of interest in the case of missing 5-year-old Summer Wells, regardless of what rumors are spreading on social media.
“There’s no person of interest,” Lawson said. “And like I said, everybody’s a suspect now, everything’s on the table, and our main focus is to find Summer, to bring her home. Whichever way it goes with a suspect or she’s lost in the woods, or whatever, been abducted whatever, everything’s on the table. We’re not just focusing on one thing because we have no reason to.”
Lawson told News Channel 11 on Friday that his detectives are still working every day with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to follow up on leads.
The sheriff said Friday that social media rumors are being checked by law enforcement and urged those who live within 5 miles of the Beech Creek community to come forward with any credible tips they have, as this is now an investigation into any possibility.
TBI Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart said that as of Friday, just over 900 tips had been received in the search for Summer.
Lawson said most of the tips received have not resulted in solid leads.
“I think a lot of it is coming from social media,” Lawson said. “People that has 100 percent knowledge this happened, but they’re not doing it the right way. You don’t put stuff on social media. If you know something, then you have to say something to us, not just start rumors. And that’s the big thing is rumors and people have their opinion.”
Lawson said investigators have actually already followed up on most of the rumors on social media.
“In my position, and my detectives everywhere, everybody wants to share their opinion, which we understand that, but 99.9 percent of things that people are posting are saying, we’ve already looked into and taken care of,” Lawson said. “But we still want people to look on their property in the Beech Creek community because I think with all the searchers we’ve had, the many people, I don’t think we’ve missed anything. But we’re not counting out there’s still a need to search their own property.”
Community members have wondered why volunteers were not utilized during the search for Summer, but Lawson said the hazardous terrain was the reason for restricting who assisted.
“People got confused why we didn’t want people just off the street searching in the woods, because we couldn’t take a chance on losing someone else in that tremendous mountain terrain and with the bears,” Lawson said. “It’s very dangerous, so that’s why we put so many in certain areas, so we knew who, how many was coming out. So everyone was accounted for, so it made it so much easier on us, not that we didn’t appreciate the community wanting to help search.”
Lawson also said the local church had been “unbelievable” in the way they stepped up to help search efforts.
Throughout the search for Summer, investigators have asked community members in the area of the Wells’ home to check their cameras and property for any sign of her or anything suspicious. Lawson elaborated on just what constitutes as the working area in the Beech Creek community.
“Within a five or six-mile radius, if they live there,” Lawson said. He also says anyone who may have traveled through the area around June 15 when Summer went missing is encouraged to call with any detail no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. “Sometimes people will think, ‘Well, I saw that but it probably wouldn’t mean anything.’ But the least little thing, to us might be something huge, where it wouldn’t mean anything to the public. So that’s why we ask the public, everything they see to check their property and other outbuildings and things like that.”
Investigators are also searching for the driver of a red or maroon Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that could be a “potential witness” in the case. When investigators first released information on the truck, they stated it featured a ladder rack and white buckets in the bed.
“The biggest thing is the ladder racks and the white buckets means that they do some kind of work,” Lawson said. “And that vehicle was seen in the area sometime during her disappearance, and we’re just wondering if they saw something, they may hold that piece I was talking about earlier that would blow this thing wide open, let us know where Summer is, if they saw something.”
Lawson also said the truck is the only one of hundreds that investigators haven’t been able to find in relation to gathering information in the case. According to Lawson, the license plate of the truck is not known at this time.
An Amber Alert for Summer Wells was issued by the TBI on June 16, the day after she was first reported missing in Hawkins County.
The TBI AMBER Alert reports Summer’s appearance as follows:
- Age: 5
- Sex: Female
- Race: White
- Hair: Blonde Eyes: Blue
- Height: 3′
- Weight: 40 lbs.
- NCIC: M476287498
- Missing From: Rogersville, Tennessee
- Missing Since: June 15, 2021
Anyone with information regarding Wells’ whereabouts is urged to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.
For complete coverage of the Search for Summer Wells, click here.