Summer Wells: Who’s who in missing 5-year-old Tennessee girl’s case

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Tennessee AMBER Alert – Summer Wells (Photos: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s been nearly a month since a statewide AMBER Alert was issued in Tennessee for 5-year-old Summer Moon-Utah Wells. Wells’ parents reported her missing the evening of Tuesday, June 15 when she disappeared without a trace from their Hawkins County home in rural Northeast Tennessee.

From family members to investigators, here’s a look at some of the people in Summer’s story so far in the search for the five-year-old Rogersville girl as the investigation into her disappearance continues.

The Wells family

Summer Moon-Utah Wells

Tennessee AMBER Alert – Summer Wells (Photos: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Summer’s mother – Candus Bly)

The five-year-old Rogersville girl was reported missing the evening of Tuesday, June 15 when she disappeared from her home on Ben Hill Road in the Beech Creek community.

Summer is 3 feet tall with blonde hair, cut short, and blue eyes. Her parents say she loved to play princess but is very much a tomboy who keeps her brothers in line.

Her mother described Summer as “the boss of the family.”

The five-year-old was reported to be barefoot and wearing a pink shirt and gray shorts before she went missing.

Donald Wells: Summer’s father

Donald Wells (Courtesy: WJHL)

Wells has stated he was at work on the afternoon of June 15

He first spoke with reporters on June 18, sharing what his wife, Candus Bly, told him their daughter was doing before her disappearance.

“She was planting flowers with her mother and her grandmother and she wanted to go into the house, so my wife watched her go into the door and she went into the house,” Wells said. “And the boys were on the internet of course, and she wanted to go downstairs and play with her toys. So, when her mother [came] in and she says, ‘Summer’ and she went down into the basement and she didn’t answer. So, she went down there, and she was gone.”

Wells believes his daughter may have been kidnapped

“Some bad person grabbed her, but we have no idea,” said Wells. “The FBI and the police have covered every single place, everything that anybody can think of, they’ve covered.”

He reiterated that belief in a June 28 interview, “I knew right away that she was abducted.”

Wells said his biggest fear is that Summer is being tormented somewhere.

Wells had a protective order filed against him in 2020

In October 2020, Wells’ wife Candus filed for a protective order against him, stating in court documents that she was “afraid for my children and myself.”

An arrest warrant obtained by News 2 states that a Hawkins County deputy had responded Oct. 14, 2020, to the home where Donald Wells lived with his wife and four children, including Summer, for a report of a domestic assault.

He was arrested and booked into the Hawkins County jail on multiple charges, including domestic assault, possession of a handgun while under the influence, and unlawful possession of a weapon.

The Hawkins County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office confirmed Wells pleaded guilty to the charge of possession of a handgun while under the influence but added the domestic assault and unlawful possession of a weapon charges were dropped in April 2021.

Wells spoke with Nexstar’s WJHL about the charges and protective order, saying that he had been in Utah and that he and Bly “weren’t on the same page” due to lack of communication.

“We worked it out, she’s apologized to me. She went to the district attorney, she even talked to the judge and told him that she made a serious mistake and, you know, that’s the end of it,” Wells said. “She didn’t get hurt and I never hurt nobody, so.”

Wells’ previous charges date back to 1990

In addition to Tennessee, Donald Wells has faced previous charges in Utah and Arkansas.

In Arkansas, Wells was charged with possession of controlled counterfeit substances without a prescription and burglary between 2006 to 2007.

Information obtained by Nexstar’s KTVX shows that Wells faced multiple charges in Utah from 1990 to 2001. He was charged with attempted aggravated assault, interfering with a public servant, forgery, burglary of a dwelling, and theft.

When asked by WJHL if he would like to address his criminal history Wells said, “It’s in the past, and we’ll leave it there.”

Candus Bly: Summer’s mother

Candus Bly and Don Wells, Summer Wells’ parents (Source: WJHL)

Bly was planting flowers with Summer before she disappeared

On June 28, Bly spoke about her daughter’s disappearance for the first time on camera, nearly two weeks after Summer was first reported missing.

“Me and my mother and her were planting flowers, and we went in after we got done washing our hands, and [Summer] got a piece of candy from grandma,” Bly said. “[Summer] 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.”

Bly said she asked the boys to watch their sister and that she would be right back. “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.”

Summer’s mother recalled yelling downstairs for the 5-year-old a few times but never heard back from her, which Bly said was unusual for her daughter. “I went down there to check, and she was nowhere in sight.”

Bly also believes Summer was abducted

Bly has stated she is certain Summer did not wander away from their home, “I feel in my heart that somebody has came up here and took her, has lured her away from here.”

She said she’s scared that somebody is hurting her daughter. “Whoever has my daughter, I pray and hope that they have not harmed her and they bring her back to us safe and sound.”

Bly says she, Summer, and a family friend went swimming on June 15

She posted a video of Summer swimming to her TikTok page on June 15, the day her daughter was first reported missing. Bly said they, along with a family friend, were swimming for around 20 minutes while waiting to pick up a prescription for her mother.

Bly added they then returned home in the afternoon but was not certain how many hours passed from the time they returned home and when Summer disappeared.

“You know, I really can’t tell you all the time details, because time gets away from you when you’re trying to enjoy yourself,” Bly said during a June 28 interview.

Bly passed a polygraph test, according to Wells

Donald Wells told WJHL, on Tuesday, June 22 that Bly had passed a lie detector test after going to the district attorney’s office.

Bly, along with Summer’s grandmother and two of her brothers, attended a prayer circle organized by the Kingsport community on July 6. They did not want to be interviewed but said they are thankful for all the prayers and support.

Candus Harer: Summer’s grandmother

Harer was also planting flowers with Summer

Harer stays in a camper on the property. According to Bly, Summer’s grandmother was also planting flowers with them on the day of the young girl’s disappearance.

In a written statement released on June 25, Harer commented on the night of Summer’s disappearance.

“Bring my grandbaby home. She is a lovely baby, and we’re so thankful for everyone looking for her. We yelled and looked for her as much as we could. She’s just gone. It’s devastating.”

Josie, Wyatt, and Waylon: Summer’s brothers

All three brothers were home the night Summer disappeared

Josie (12), Wyatt (11), and Waylon (9) were in the house the night of June 15, according to their mother.

Bly said she played with her brothers all the time, especially Waylon. “He misses his sister so much because he played with her all the time,” said Bly. “He was, I think, one of her favorites.”

During her June 28 interview, Bly said the last few weeks had been “devastating” and “heartbreaking” for her sons.

Investigators in Summer Wells search

Leslie Earhart: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Leslie Earhart: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
(Source: WJHL video)

Earhart is TBI’s Public Information Officer. She has stated during media briefings that the circumstances leading to Summer’s disappearance remain unclear.

During a June 24 briefing, Earhart said they couldn’t discuss everything in the case. “In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, we can’t discuss everything we are doing, and have done, to find Summer.”

Tim Coup: Incident Commander

Tim Coup: Incident Commander
(Source: WJHL video)

The Incident Commander of Ground Search in the Summer Wells case is Church Hill Rescue Squad Captain, Tim Coup.

In a June 27 release, Coup stated crews are “scaling back search operations.”

Coup said the search efforts would continue on a more specialized team basis as needed and directed from local, state, and federal agencies.

Ronnie Lawson: Hawkins County Sheriff

Ronnie Lawson: Hawkins County Sheriff
(Source: WJHL video)

At a June 24 briefing, the Hawkins County sheriff has addressed the mental, emotional, and physical toll the search had been taking on the crews, but that they would continue. We’re gonna find Summer.”

During the same briefing, he stressed reaching out to officials with important information, rather than relying on social media, “I know there’s a lot of social media [posts] going on out there – but they are absolutely useless unless these people, that are 100% positive, call 1-800-TBI-FIND, that means nothing.”

Though operations have been scaled back, Lawson said Hawkins County detectives and agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are continuing to check every possible lead.

Others

David Dotson: Family friend

Photo: WJHL

Dotson attends church with the Wells family and told WJHL he was called to their home on the night Summer went missing.

He also described a nightly ritual that he does as he prays for Summer’s safe return, “I sit out at night as the sun sets, and I play a song for Summer.”

Dotson took Summer’s brothers to play putt-putt late last month to help lift their spirits.

“I took them to the putt-putt golf course here in Kingsport, just to try to let them have a peaceful day away from the search and rescue teams going on their property and the agents coming up.”

He was also in attendance at the July 6 prayer circle. While the family didn’t speak that night, he did.

“The family, they need that support…a lot of negativity has been said and it affects the mother, the father, and the children and we just want to focus on getting Summer back. That’s the main thing,” said Dotson. “From speaking with Candus and Don, the boys…obviously they just want Summer back and they just want her safe…returned back and just keep on praying.”

Timmy Etherton: Prayer circle organizer

Etherton is a member of the Kingsport community and is the one who organized the July 6 prayer circle members of the family attended.

“God put this on my heart to bring the community together and pray as a team. I know people on Facebook have been praying too but I just don’t feel that’s enough,” said Etherton. “I also want to pray for her family as well. Just pray for Candus, and the boys and Donald because they need it too, just as Summer does.”

Etherton said he is planning to host another prayer circle soon and hopes more churches and people can become involved.

“We all should come together because it says in the Bible, in Matthew 18:20, Jesus said himself where two or three are gathered in his name, there he is also.”

Rose Marie Bly: Candus Bly’s missing sister

Rose Marie Bly: Missing Person

Candus Bly’s sister, Rose Marie Bly, has been missing since 2009, but investigators say there is no evidence that indicates the two cases are connected.

According to the FBI, Rose Marie was last seen leaving her residence in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, on Aug. 21, 2009. Five days later, her vehicle was found in a tractor-trailer parking lot 30 miles from her home.

Bly said she was between Arkansas and Tennessee at the time of her sister’s disappearance, “I don’t know all of what happened or what did happen. But I hope that they find her too and bring her home safely, too.”

Donald Wells also spoke with WJHL about his sister-in-law’s missing person case.

“She disappeared without a trace, they haven’t found anything, they haven’t found a body, nothing. When you see cases like that, that’s why I lose hope in Summer, you know, I want to keep hope, but sometimes I just…lose hope and I think, ‘well, maybe we’ll never see her again.”

‘Potential Witness’

Investigators are still looking for the driver of a red or maroon Toyota Tacoma with a full bed ladder rack that was in the area around the time Summer disappeared. The TBI stresses that the driver is a potential witness, not a suspect.

“The pickup is possibly a 1998-2000 maroon or red Toyota Tacoma, with a full bed ladder rack along with white buckets in the truck bed,” a June 26 TBI release states.

Bly spoke about the search for the truck at the end of June. “I wish they would come forward and explain themselves. If you’re not a suspect, at least come forward and say what you’ve seen.”

While Summer’s parents believe she was abducted, TBI maintains the circumstances surrounding the girl’s disappearance remain unclear and investigators have not ruled out foul play.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at 423-272-7121 or the TBI at 800-TBI-FIND.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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