ROGERSVILLE — On June 15, 2021, around 6:30 p.m., Summer Wells, 5, was reported missing.
More than 120 teams, including members of the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Church Hill Rescue Squad, searched a large area around the Beech Creek home in Summer Wells during 13 days.
The entrance to the house’s long driveway was cordoned off with crime scene tape and emergency personnel scoured the woods.
Now, a year later, the house that once housed a family of six looks like a shell of itself.
The driveway leading to the house is almost eroded. As you climb the hill towards the house, forgotten toys, like jeeps, bikes and push cars, now covered in grass and vines line the dirt road.
Near the top of the hill, you step on the carcass of a buried doll. So you see the house; part is clad in yellow siding while the rest is exposed plywood. The yard is full of old vehicles and miscellaneous objects.
As you leave the house and approach the Ben Hill Road entrance, you see signs of missing children with Summer’s picture.
Tim Coup, captain of the Church Hill Rescue Squad, acted as incident commander of search operations for 10 of the 13 days.
This role included managing and directing search operations as well as working with other organizations to ensure they had the necessary resources.
Coup said Summer’s disappearance affected him on an emotional level that encouraged him to do his best to search for Summer.
“I joined the rescue team to help and give back to my community,” Coup said. “I also have a small child of my own, and the way that call was, it weighed heavily on my heart that I had to be there and do everything I could to try and locate Summer Wells.”
Coup said the search effort was “very time consuming and challenging for the searchers due to the extremely dense canopy and excessively steep terrain.”
Search efforts used several different specialist teams, including K-9, aerial helicopter, fixed-wing drones and dive teams.
“There was a large amount of different levels of resources used, each having different key elements that would ultimately lead to finding Summer Wells,” Coup said.
Coup said he received many responses from the community regarding Summer’s disappearance.
“Based on the response we’ve received through community donations, it’s had a big impact on our community,” Coup said. “It also had a big impact on agencies responding from across the country and around the world. We received thank you messages from people all over the world. For our agency, this call was just as important as the rest of the calls we receive, but with the age of summer, it adds another element to the call. »
Coup said they continue to work with different agencies to try to locate Summer.
The Church Hill Rescue Squad is also the agency in charge of the Summer Wells Reward Fund. The latest total reported by the Times News was $40,423.81. The team plans to release an update on the reward in a few days.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation public information officer Leslie Earhart said TBI continues to investigate what happened to Summer.
“The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office continue to work alongside the FBI to determine what happened to Summer Wells,” Earhart said. “Officers and detectives will continue to pursue all potential leads. We ask anyone with credible, first-hand information about Summer’s disappearance to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.
The Times News contacted the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office for comment on the matter and received no comment. The Times News has also contacted the Knoxville Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and they have no comment at this time.
The Times News also sent a letter to Summer’s father, Don Wells, who is currently serving time in Hawkins County Jail, and received no response. Staff also made a formal request to HCSO officials for an interview with Don, which was denied.
The Times News also attempted to contact Summer’s mother, Candus Wells, by phone and email, as well as visit her whereabouts twice, but received no response. Staff also attempted to contact Summer’s grandmother, Candus Harer, through social media and by visiting her residence.