Timeline of the search for Summer Wells

News

(Photos: TBI, THP, and WJHL)

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The search continues for missing Hawkins County 5-year-old Summer Utah Moon Wells.

More than 100 personnel and 41 agencies have been involved in the search for Wells since she was reported missing from her home in the Beech Creek community Tuesday night.

Below is a timeline listing some of the key events in the search for the missing child:

(Times are approximate)

Tuesday, June 15

Summer reported missing

(Photo via Hawkins County EMA)
  • Summer Wells was reported missing from her home on Ben Hill Road in the Beech Creek community of Hawkins County around 6:30 p.m., according to authorities. Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said she was last seen wearing a pink shirt and grey shorts.
  • Lawson later said that around 60–80 people participated in the initial search Tuesday night. The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Aviation Unit and Ballad Health’s HEART air service provided aerial support. Other agencies involved in the search: Church Hill Rescue Squad, Hawkins County County Rescue, Hawkins County EMA, Hawkins County EMS, Hawkins County E-911, Hawkins County Sheriffs Office, and Goshen Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Wednesday, June 16

12:07 a.m. – Endangered Child Alert issued

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an endangered child alert for Summer. The TBI also posted more photos of the missing child.

11 a.m. – AMBER Alert issued in Tennessee for Summer

Citing “new information and growing concern about the well-being of Summer Wells,” the TBI upgraded the endangered child alert to a statewide AMBER Alert.

4 p.m. – Press conference

  • Officials held the first press conference regarding the disappearance of Summer Wells.
  • Sheriff Lawson said Wednesday’s search involved more than 100 people from 19 agencies. He also said the FBI was assisting.
  • The sheriff said it was too early to determine if foul play was involved but noted that Summer’s family was cooperating with law enforcement.
  • Lawson also mentioned that communications issues were making the search more difficult. He said there was virtually no cell phone service.
  • TBI Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart encouraged Beech Creek residents to check trail cameras and any potential hiding places, such as crawl spaces and sheds, on their property.

8:24 p.m. – TBI: No suspect or vehicle

In a tweet, the TBI said it does not have a suspect or a vehicle description in connection to Summer’s disappearance. However, the agency said it developed such information it would share it with the public immediately.

10:04 p.m. – 30 tips so far

The TBI said in a tweet that it had received 30 tips as of Wednesday evening, over 24 hours after Summer was first reported missing.

Thursday, June 17

1 p.m. – Press conference

  • Officials held their second press conference.
  • Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said “everybody is a person of interest” and “everything is on the table” regarding the investigation into Summer’s disappearance. TBI spokesperson Leslie Earhardt said the circumstances surrounding her disappearance remained unclear. She added that if investigators did develop information that the child was taken and develop a suspect and vehicle description, that information would be immediately shared with the public.
  • Ground search crews had covered a one-mile radius around Summer’s residence so far. Crews hoped to have a two-mile radius covered by the end of the day, over 48 hours since she was first reported missing.
  • Officials said they had received and pursued about 50 leads so far.

Summer’s father issues first statement

Don Wells, Summer’s father, said in a statement to WJHL that Summer would “never leave our hill” and that he believes “someone snuck up on her and grabbed her.”

“We know that there’s people praying all around the world praying for her safe return. So many people love her. She would never leave our hill. I think that someone snuck up on her and grabbed her. I don’t think she’s in the area because the dog goes down to the road and that’s the end of the trail, but I don’t know that for a fact. The way that she just disappeared, she would never do that.”

Don Wells, Summer’s father

Friday, June 18

Summer’s father speaks on-camera to reporters

  • Speaking to reporters, Summer’s father, Don Wells, thanked the community and the emergency personnel searching for Summer.
  • Wells also spoke about the evening his daughter was reported missing.

“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. 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. So she went out the basement door, which was unlocked, and we haven’t seen her since.”

Don Wells, Summer’s father

2:30 p.m. – Press conference

  • Officials held their third press conference since Summer was reported missing.
  • They announced that more resources were brought in to assist in the search, including a dive team, hazardous terrain search team, urban search and rescue team, and the state’s tactical radio system.
  • Thursday’s search effort involved more than 100 people from 41 agencies. Searchers had covered 688 acres and received 85 tips so far. They would cover around 1,000 acres by the end of the day.
  • TBI Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart said “all avenues are being explored” regarding the circumstances behind Summer’s disappearance. She also encouraged people to not share speculation and rumors on social media.
  • Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said that no search warrants had been issued as every search so far had been conducted with the consent of the property owner.

7 p.m. – Vigil held in Rogersville for Summer

  • A Rogersville church opened its doors Friday evening for those wanting to pray for Summer, about 72 hours after she was reported missing.
  • Summer’s father, Don Wells, and one of her brothers attended the vigil. Don said he was at work when his wife called to tell him that Summer was missing on Tuesday and that he rushed home to find his boys and neighbors searching for his daughter.

Saturday, June 19

113 tips as the search continues

The TBI said it had received 113 tips as of Saturday afternoon as searchers continued the search for Summer. The agency also shared more photos of the Wells’ residence.

Hawkins County 911 announced that a statewide call out was requested through the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads for Sunday regarding the search for Summer.

Crews respond to new lead

  • Ground crews were seen combing a field with flashlights Saturday night as a helicopter flew overhead.
  • The TBI said that its agents and Hawkins County investigators responded to the location near Beech Creek Road to follow up on a lead, but Summer remained missing.

Sunday, June 20

Search continues

  • The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced that it had received 137 tips as of Sunday afternoon. Summer Wells has not been found, and has been missing for five days.
  • According to the Hawkins County Rescue Squad, 35 agencies from Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia assisted in the search Sunday. About 2,400 acres had been searched since Tuesday night.
  • The Hawkins County Rescue Squad posted around 10 p.m. stating that due to “overwhelming support,” they were pausing the acceptance of supply donations for search crews. The Logistics Team will determine after Monday’s search if donations are still needed.

Monday, June 21

Tips stream in

The TBI told News Channel 11 Monday morning that the total number of tips sent in regarding the possible whereabouts of Summer Wells had reached 150.

4 p.m. – Press conference

  • Officials announced that Summer Wells remained missing.
  • The search had expanded to 72 agencies with around 2,400 acres searched by ground.
  • The TBI said the circumstances surrounding Summer’s disappearance “remain unclear.”
  • Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson pleaded with landowners to check any places where a child could hide, including outbuildings and barns.
  • Monday’s search effort was impacted by strong to severe thunderstorms that rolled through the area.

Tuesday, June 22

Search continues

  • Tuesday marked one week since Summer Wells was reported missing.
  • As of Tuesday, the search effort involved 82 agencies from several states. Officials said 4.6 square miles, or about 3,000 acres, had been searched so far.

Wednesday, June 23

304 tips so far

  • The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it had received 304 tips so far. None resulted in a significant development in the case.
  • Two community members are offering rewards in the search for Summer Wells.

Thursday, June 24

4 p.m. – Press conference

  • Investigators said the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of missing Hawkins County 5-year-old Summer Wells remained unclear and called that “outside of the norm” for a missing child case.
  • TBI spokesperson Leslie Earhart noted that investigators cannot share everything they are doing in order to preserve the investigation.
  • Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said “you’d have to work very hard to find somebody we haven’t talked to.”
  • Lawson said the family remained “very cooperative” with law enforcement.
  • Searchers had covered 4.6 square miles so far.

Friday, June 25

394 tips so far

  • The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation revealed it had received nearly 400 tips but none had resulted in new developments in the case.
  • More than 100 agencies across the state and nation have assisted in the search through treacherous terrain and high grass to locate Summer
  • News Channel 11 obtained audio from emergency scanners the night Summer Wells was reported missing
  • Summer’s mother released new pictures of Summer
  • Although Summer’s mother, Candus Bly, hasn’t spoken to News Channel 11 on camera, Bly and her mother, Summer’s maternal grandmother, released statements Friday afternoon.

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.

Candus Harer, grandmother to missing 5-year-old Summer Wells

Summer’s mother, Candus Bly, said the following:

“I know she would never wander off this hill alone.”

A family friend spoke on camera and said that the family is thankful for those who have continued searching for Summer.

Saturday, June 26

Potential witness sought

  • The TBI put out a notice hoping to get in contact with a potential witness who may have been driving in a Toyota pickup truck near the Wells home close to the time Summer disappeared.
  • The pickup was described as possibly a 1998-2000 maroon or red Toyota Tacoma with a full bed ladder rack with white buckets in the bed.
  • The driver was not identified but is not considered a suspect. Investigators stressed they just hope to find out if the driver saw or heard anything on either June 14 or June 15 when they were in the area.

Sunday, June 27

Scaling back the search

After 12 days and 500 leads that lead to no developments, crews announced they were scaling back the search for Summer Wells.

A release from Incident Commander Tim Coup said the rough search terrain and extreme conditions physically and mentally exhausted his crews.

Although the search will still continue, officials will begin to rely on resources from Middle and West Tennessee, as well as out-of-state resources.

Scope of the search

The release also included the following information about the search:

  • The search had utilized over 120 agencies from Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina
  • Since June 15, 1,150 searches had covered the ground
  • Over 13,800 search hours had been logged
  • TBI fixed-wing flew 21.2 hours
  • The THP helicopter logged 30 hours of flight
  • Numerous specialized search and rescue groups included (but are not limited to): TN Task Force 2, BUSAR, Appalachian Mountain Rescue, Black Diamond, SCSAR, Central Carolina SAR, Great Smokey Mountain National Park, RATSAR, Search and Rescue Tracking Institute, and numerous K-9 Teams
  • 4.6 square miles (over 3,000 acres) had been searched since Summer went missing

Tip count increases to 518

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told News Channel 11 that the number of tips about the disappearance of Summer Wells had climbed over 500.

Monday, June 28

Mother speaks on camera for first time

The mother of missing 5-year-old Summer Wells spoke with News Channel 11 in an exclusive interview Monday night — the first time she had publicly spoken.

Reward fund finalized

Thursday, July 1

Capt. Tim Coup announced that $2,350 had been donated to the reward fund. Two people wrote checks for $25,000 and $10,000, but Coup said the checks would not be deposited into the account unless asked to do so by those who wrote them.

Monday, July 5

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, there have been 799 tips sent in to the TBI — none of which have led to any solid answers regarding Summer’s whereabouts as her disappearance reaches the three-week mark.

This lead count number was updated at 4 p.m. on Monday.

The TBI has yet to identify the driver of a red or maroon Toyota Tacoma that was allegedly in Beech Creek area around the time Summer was last seen.

The agency has stressed the driver is not a suspect, but he or she is a potential witness that might have seen something that could direct investigators to a lead.


The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation 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 the latest news, weather, and sports alerts right at your fingertips, download the free WJHL News app! Available from Google Play and the App Store.

Anyone with information on Summer Wells’ whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

This is a developing story. Download the WJHL News app for updates sent to your phone.

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