Summer Wells: TN officials seek witness as searchers scale back search for missing girl

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee state police officials are seeking a potential witness in the disappearance of a 5-year-old Rogersville girl who vanished earlier this month.

An AMBER Alert remains active for Summer Moon-Utah Wells, who was last seen at her family’s home in the Beech Creek community the late afternoon of June 15. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, her parents reported her missing around 6:30 p.m. that evening.

The girl has not been seen since.

>> Read more trending news

Summer’s father, Don Wells, said the girl was planting flowers with her mother and grandmother when she decided to go inside. Summer’s brothers were on the internet, so she went downstairs into the basement to 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,” Wells said in an interview with News Channel 11 in Johnson City. “So, she went down there and (Summer) was gone.”

The basement door was unlocked, Wells said, and the family believes that Summer vanished through that door.

The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office issued an Endangered Child Alert around 5 a.m. the next day, according to a social media post. Within hours, an AMBER Alert expanded the search for the missing girl statewide.

TBI officials have said they have no suspect or vehicle description in the case. The exact circumstances of her disappearance remain unclear.

In a statement, Wells said that his daughter never would have voluntarily left the hill on which their family lives. He said he believes “someone snuck up on her and grabbed her.”

“I don’t think she’s in the area because the (search) dog goes down to the road, and that’s the end of the trail, but I don’t know that for a fact,” Wells said. “The way that she just disappeared, she would never do that.”

Wells, who was at work when Summer disappeared, told News Channel 11 that Summer’s mother, Candus Bly, was asked to take a polygraph exam and passed.

“My wife just left the district attorney’s office with the FBI, and she passed her lie detector test,” Wells said June 22, a week after their daughter was last seen.

As of late last week, authorities had received and checked out more than 300 tips on the girl’s whereabouts, FOX13 in Memphis reported. None of the leads resulted in significant developments.

As of Monday, that number had increased to more than 560 tips.

On Saturday, TBI officials released details to the public about a Toyota pickup truck that was seen in the vicinity of Summer’s Ben Hill Road home around the time she disappeared.

The truck, a maroon or red Toyota Tacoma, has a full bed ladder rack, according to the TBI. White buckets were in the truck bed at the time it was spotted on June 15.

“We are asking this driver to contact us at 1-800-TBI-FIND,” a statement from the agency said. “We would like to speak with you to confirm this information and ask what you may have heard or seen at the time. If you are the driver of this truck, please contact us.

“We want to stress that this individual is not a suspect but is a potential witness who may have heard or seen something that may help us in our search for Summer.”

In an update Sunday, the Church Hill Rescue Squad indicated that efforts to find Summer are being scaled back. The squad is one of more than 120 agencies from six states that have participated in the large-scale search, which will enter its third week on Wednesday.

One of those agencies is the FBI, which deployed a Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team to Tennessee, according to News Channel 11.

More than 1,100 searchers on the ground have logged over 13,800 hours since Summer disappeared. Aerial searchers have also flown more than 20 hours over the rugged terrain of northeast Tennessee.

“The terrain and conditions have exhausted crews, both physically and mentally,” read a statement from the rescue squad. “We are still utilizing local and regional resources but have called upon and (are) utilizing resources from middle and west Tennessee, along with out-of-state resources to bring a fresh set of eyes and rested bodies.”

Search efforts will continue on a more specialized team basis, the squad said. Officials ensured the public, however, that they have not given up.

“Just because we may not be seen as such a large presence in and throughout the area, rest assured that we have not quit and won’t quit until we find Summer Wells,” the statement read.

>> Read more true crime stories

Summer is described as about 3 feet tall with short blonde hair and blue eyes. She weighs about 40 pounds.

She was last seen wearing a pink shirt and gray pants. The girl may have been barefoot.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND or the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at 423-272-7121. Tips can also be emailed to TipsToTBI@tn.gov.