Summer Wells is a 5-year-old Tennessee child who has been missing since June, 2021. Her parents, mother Candus Bly and father Don Wells, have faced a great deal of scrutiny.
Dr. Phil aired a two-episode series in November 2021 on Wells’ disappearance. The child has been missing for months after vanishing without a trace. On June 15, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation first tweeted about Summer’s disappearance, writing, “ENDANGERED CHILD ALERT: We need your help to find 4-year-old Summer Moon-Utah Wells, missing from Rogersville. If you see her, please call the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at 423-272-7121 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.” TBI also released a series of photos of Wells. The TBI then updated its alert to say the child was 5.
“We don’t know what happened to her, and it’s extremely frustrating…it’s just heartbreaking,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Leslie Earhart said in a June 2021 press conference.
There has been no sign of the child since. A statewide AMBER Alert was issued. The Wells’ family has a website called Find Summer Wells.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Authorities Called Summer’s Disappearance ‘Definitely Outside the Norm’; the Child Was Last Seen at Home by Her Mother, Candus Bly
According to TBI, Wells “was reportedly last seen outside of her home in the Beech Creek community” on a Tuesday evening. That’s located in Hawkins County. A missing person’s posted says Summer was last seen wearing grey pants, a pink shirt, and was possibly barefoot. She is 3 foot tall and weighs 40 pounds. She is white, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
In a timeline of the case, TBI revealed, “Her mother reports last seeing her on the afternoon of June 15th at their home in the 100 block of Ben Hill Road. In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, we will not provide additional information regarding the timeline.”
Candus Bly, the mother of Summer, spoke to WJHL-TV, and gave this account:
“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. “And [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. I told the boys, I said, ‘Watch Summer; I’ll be back.’ And 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.’ I said, ‘OK.’ And I yelled downstairs for her a couple times, and I didn’t get no answer, which was unusual because usually she always answers me. And so, I went down there to check, and she was nowhere in sight.”
Candus Bly wrote the following statement on the family’s website:
We come home. And then me and my mom – the boys were in watching Youtube like they always do – my mom says, ‘let’s re-arrange and plant the flowers.’ She goes, ‘Well, we know the boys aren’t going to help us. I know Summer will.’ So, I yelled for Summer. She was in the house with the boys. She comes out and she was planting flowers with us.
The flowers were put in planters next to Grandma Candy’s camper, with Summer handling some of the tasks.She put all the rocks on top, put chaste in there. She did all the rocks herself. We went in to grandmother’s after we were done. She asked Grandma for a piece of candy. Grandma gave her a piece of candy. She told me she wanted to go back over with her brothers, so I literally walked her halfway between the camper and the house.
I watched her go in the door and I could see her brothers at the kitchen table. When she went in, I walked over and yelled at the boys, I said, ‘Watch Summer. I’ll be right back. I’ve got to fix Mom’s knee brace.’ I was standing right there (at the camper). I was over there fixing it. Literally, you can see my house from the (camper) door. She did not walk back out that front door.
So, I went down there and I searched. I looked everywhere I could. Then I went through the house and I kept calling for her, yelling for her, everything. I came out here (outside) yelling for her, everything else, and she was nowhere. So, I called Don because I was freaking out.
I said, ‘I can’t find Summer. Get home now,’ He was like, ‘Call 9-1-1.’ So, I dropped my phone because I had to run over and get Mom’s phone and dial 9-1-1, because her AT & T phone is the only one that works out here to call 9-1-1. So, I called them, and told them what’s goin’ on.
Before the cops even came out, I went down and told my neighbors, ‘Summer is missing, will you help me look?’ just in case she did wander off. But I knew in the back of my mind, she’s never wandered off. She never went nowhere without me. She’ll ask me to do something before she even goes and does it. And she’s scared to go in the woods herself because we’ve told her time and time (again) because of the bears and snakes.
I sent the older boys down through the creek. If they’ve got a walkie-talkie and their buck knife, they can go down through there. I sent all them searching and I went out in my mom’s truck and went all the way down by the church, then went all the way down the (other) way and I didn’t see nobody even out and about.
Then I went all the way back in the holler as far as the truck can go and I didn’t see nothing back in there, either. When I was coming back up out of the holler, the cops were coming up in my driveway. So, I just followed them up in here. I don’t recall if (Don) was here before the police got here or if he was here at the same time they showed up.
We searched everywhere we could possibly search. They were out here for three or four days straight searching 5,000 square (acres). They searched all this mountain terrain all the way down through here. They smile to put on a good show, but other than that, I know they’re really upset. They ask me every day, ‘Is Summer coming home today?’ I can’t answer that. I don’t know. I find myself sitting out her until midnight or one o’clock at night just hoping maybe that whoever took her or whatever happened, she’ll come wandering back up the driveway to us.
“This one is definitely outside the norm. Typically we have some idea where the case is headed and what might have happened,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigations spokesperson Leslie Earhart said in a June 24 press conference. “In this situation, despite exploring all avenues, the circumstances leading to Summer’s disappearance remain unclear…. No one is more frustrated than we are. If we develop information will lead to locating summer we will share that with you.”
The family’s website says: “Summer Wells disappeared from her home on June 15, 2021. Her family was upstairs and at the front of the home. Summer had gone indoors to the basement where the basement door is located at the back of the house.”
She said authorities hope Wells is not dead, but they “honestly just don’t know.”
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson asked the general public to stay out of the woods during searches but they did ask people to search their own property if they leave in the area. They said the “number one goal here” was “finding sheriff.” They described searching over 3,000 acres, including of rugged and mountainous terrain, for the girl.
2. Summer’s Father, Donald Wells, Said His Wife Passed a Lie Detector Test, But His Wife Once Claimed of Him, “I am Afraid for My Children & Myself’
Summer’s father, Donald Wells, told WJHL that Summer’s mother, Candus Bly, passed a lie detector test.
“My wife just left the district attorney’s office with the FBI, and she passed her lie detector test,” Donald Wells told the television station. “Then they told her to hurry down to the command center because they just got a tip, so we’re freaking out right now.”
According to the station, documents from the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office show Donald Wells was “arrested on domestic assault charges” in October 2020. He was “charged with domestic assault, possession of a handgun while under the influence and unlawful possession of a weapon in regards to an incident with Summer’s mother, Candus Bly,” the television station reported.
She then sought a protective order against Donald Wells that read, in part, “I am afraid for my children and myself. My mother [fears] he is going to hurt her [because] she is staying in her camper on the property,” according to the television station, which said she later asked for it to be dismissed. Donald Wells ended up pleading guilty in April 2021 to possession of a handgun while under the influence, the station reported. The other charges were dismissed.
TBI confirmed that both parents were questioned.
The parents’ three sons were placed in the custody of that state’s Department of Child Protective Services after Summer’s disappearance, according to Fox News, which added that Bly said the boys were removed for reasons not related to Summer vanishing.
3. The Family’s Social Media & Cell Phones Were Searched, Authorities Revealed; They Have Found No Evidence Summer Was ‘Abducted’
TBI says it’s found no evidence the child was abducted, despite Bly’s beliefs about that.
In their timeline, TBI revealed the extent of the searches. Answering the question, “Have you searched the home and property around the residence?” they answered, “Yes, more than once, including the basement, crawl space, all vehicles, outbuildings, barrels, and other items located on the property. Additionally, K9 teams specializing in a variety of search methods have also been utilized.”
They also answered some common questions:
Have you searched the phones and computers belonging to the Wells family? “Yes, working alongside the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, numerous subpoenas and search warrants have been obtained, resulting in any available digital evidence being collected, searched, and documented. This includes social media accounts,” TBI wrote.
Have you searched the flower bed? There was not a flower bed. Summer’s mother and grandmother stated that she was planting flowers with them shortly before she was last seen. The flowers were planted in pots, and yes, the pots were examined.
Have you searched waterways in the area? Yes. Dive teams were brought in to search bodies of water in the area.
Have you conducted aerial searches? Yes. Numerous searches from the air have been completed, especially during the first few weeks after Summer went missing. Additionally, drones were used to map the area and to pinpoint bodies of water as well as any other points of interest.
Will additional searches be conducted? Investigators will continue to search points of interest as they are developed as well as follow up on all tips regarding Summer’s whereabouts.
Have you collected and reviewed surveillance video? Yes. We’ve collected surveillance photos and videos from a variety of locations. Additionally, the entire area was canvased in an effort to locate any residential cameras that weren’t voluntarily reported. Please keep in mind that the Beech Creek area of Hawkins County is very rural, with few businesses and no traffic cameras.
4. The TBI Is Seeking a Truck in Connection With the Case
One clue: TBI is seeking a red truck.
“An individual who travels through the area regularly as part of his job stated that he recalls possibly seeing a 1998-2000 maroon or red Toyota Tacoma, with a full bed ladder rack and white buckets in the truck bed. The individual stated that the truck might have been parked in the area of Beech Creek Road and Ben Hill Road in the late afternoon to early evening on either Monday, June 14th, or Tuesday, June 15th,” the agency wrote.
“That vehicle was not captured on surveillance cameras. In an effort to cover all bases and identify the driver, the TBI, in agreement with the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, released the vehicle description. Our hope was that the individual might have information that could help the investigation. The driver has not come forward, nor have the hundreds of vehicles reported to us as matching the description panned out.”
They added, “It has been brought to our attention that a photo of what the truck may look like has been circulating on social media, along with claims that the vehicle has been located. This is not accurate. Additionally, the photo was not released by law enforcement. We continue to urge the public only to share information from official sources.
5. Dr. Phil Explored What the Parents Know With a Body Language Expert
Dr. Phil’s episodes aired on November 11 and November 12, 2021.
“Since the night of June 15, 2021, there have been no answers as to where Candus and Don’s 5-year-old daughter Summer could be,” Dr. Phil’s website says.
“The parents say they thought they were doing the right thing by requesting the public’s help to find their little girl, but it backfired. Instead, the couple say they became targets of online bullies who accused them of involvement in the disappearance of their missing child. In part 2, Don and Candus speak out in their exclusive first national TV interview. Dr. Phil digs deeper into the story to discover whether there is any new information that might help solve the mystery of Summer’s disappearance.”
Body language experts analyzed comments the parents gave to Dr. Phil. She had an emotional breakdown when asked about the Cornbread Mafia, described as “an organized crime syndicate in the southern United States,” by WJHL-TV, which reported that the experts don’t think the parents harmed Summer but that Bly might know more information than she has revealed.
The website contains a lot of video clips with Summer’s parents.
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