Lost in Tennessee – where is Summer Wells?

Summer Moon-Utah Wells is a 5 year old girl who was last seen on June 15, 2021 in Rogersville, Tennessee.

Summer lived in the Beech Creek community with her mother, Candus, her father, Donald, and her three brothers – 12-year-old Jose, 11-year-old Wyatt and 9-year old Waylon.

You can view Candus’ Facebook here – https://www.facebook.com/candus.wells.77

You can view Donald’s Facebook here – https://www.facebook.com/donald.wells.7798574

Candus said Summer and her were planting flowers in the yard with Summer’s grandmother. Eventually, Summer wanted to go back inside. She told her brothers, who were watching TV, that she was going down to the basement to play with her toys. This is the last time she was ever seen.

Summer’s parents have since said they believe she was abducted via a door in the basement that leads outside.

An Amber Alert was issued very quickly for Summer. 

An AMBER Alert has been issued on behalf of the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office for Summer Moon-Utah Wells. Summer is a 5-year-old white female, 3′ tall, 40lbs., with blonde hair and blue eyes. Summer was last seen wearing grey pants, a pink shirt and was possibly barefoot. If you have seen Summer or have any information regarding her whereabouts, please contact the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at 423-272-7121 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.

Online posts said initially that Summer was last seen walking away from her family home – Summer was last seen around 7pm leaving her residence on foot on Ben Hill Road off of Beech Creek Road.

Map of the area around Summer’s home

One of our group members is local to the case and posted this which gives you an idea of the area where Summer was last seen:

I am local to this. Nothing feels right. The area she is in, Beech Creek, is very rugged with a crap ton of streams. If she truly got lost, there is a chance she could have met up with a black bear. She maybe with out shoes. But even the most country kids can’t get far without shoes. Many rocks, valleys, brush.

Before we go any further, I just wanted to note that this case can get confusing due to the amount of different people involved. And the fact that many of them are for some reason named Candus.

Summer’s mom, her grandma, and another family member are all called Candus.

There is also another missing person case associated with this family – Summer’s aunt Rose Marie Bly went missing in 2009 and has never been found.

On August 21, 2009, Rose left her home in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, to drive a few miles away to the next town over, Cushing, in order to meet her cousin at a bar.

Rose reportedly told her husband at the time that she would be home before midnight, but she never made it to the bar or returned home.

Her vehicle was located in a parking lot in Grantsburg five days after her disappearance. Grantsburg is miles away from the town she was supposed to be in, but is where Rose attended high school.

The keys to her car were not located, and no evidence of foul play was recorded.

Prior to her disappearance, Rose told her mother she fell off of a horse and was experiencing head pain. Her mother later speculated that Rose suffered brain damage and wandered off on her own, but there is no evidence to support this theory.

She was 21 years old at the time she went missing.

There is some really great info online that runs through a timeline of Summer’s disappearance – you can view it here.   It goes into a lot of very specific detail (including info about things like drinks they purchased on the morning of the disappearance). We will run through the basics here.

We start at 7.30am on June 15, 2021 (a Tuesday).  Summer’s father Donald Wells claims he left home for work in Jonesborough, TN. That is around 25 miles, and a 40 min drive from their home, according to Google maps.

As a way of verifying that Summer was alive and actually present, there is a tiktok video of her swimming at a place called Warriors Path at 12.21 on June 15.  This is important when we talk about theories because people think something may have happened to Summer at this point.

Another photo of Summer was allegedly taken by someone in the family at around 3.09pm on the day.

At some point between 4.30-4.42pm, neighbours reported hearing a scream.  “ Said it sounded so different and wrong and everyone got quiet in the house, it was that strange. “ 

By 5pm, the search for Summer had started. The family and neighbours searched the area for her and Donald ended up calling 911 at 6.29pm from his workplace (almost two hours after she went missing!??)

Donald then left work and returned to his house to help search for Summer.

Interestingly, on Dr. Phil he said Candus called him at work and said Summer was missing. He told her to call 911 and then he left work. He said in his way home he also called 911 from the car.

At 12.07am on June 16 (around 8-9 hours after Summer was last seen), the TBI released an endangered child alert.  They changed this to be an Amber Alert at 11am on June 16.  

On June 17, Sheriff Ronnie Lawson from the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference.    He said that everybody was a person of interest and that every theory was still on the table. 

TBI spokesperson Leslie Earhardt said the circumstances surrounding Summer’s disappearance remained unclear. Search teams said “Steep and dangerous Terrain including Dense canopy coverage and ground cover, were hampering their efforts. Poor cell phone service was also making it difficult for them to communicate.” 

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.

Investigators also asked neighbors and landowners in the area near Summer’s home to check their CCTV and trail camera footage for any clues in the case.

On June 18 (3 days after Summer went missing), her father Donnie spoke to the media.  He told reporters that he was at work when Summer vanished. 

“When I got home, I drove to the bottom of the property and I realized that all my neighbors and stuff were combing the woods looking for her, and I realized right then and there that she was not there, I knew right then and there that she was gone — because she would never leave there on her own. Somebody had taken 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.” “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.”

Sheriff Ronnie Lawson also gave an update on June 18:

He stated that investigators had conducted multiple searches, but had yet to issue any search warrants. He said that everyone had been cooperative to date. “We have 2 investigations going, and I can assure you that the investigation on the part of law enforcement is extremely intense, just like boots on the ground and all the searching going on.”

By June 22, the TBI released information which said that search teams had covered 4.6 square miles which is about 3000 acres in the search for Summer. Tim Coup is the incident commander for ground search operations. He says that ongoing, the search for Summer will continue with a focus on specific areas using specialized teams. 82 agencies from several states are involved.

On June 22, Donnie spoke to WJHL and told them that Candus (Summer’s mother) had passed a polygraph test. 

9 days after Summer disappeared, the TBI provided another update in the case.

Investigators said the circumstances surrounding the disappearance 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.

About this time, we learned more about the criminal history of Donnie Wells.  This info is from the Times News:

Donald Wells, 56, was arrested at his home on Oct. 14, 2020, and charged with domestic assault, possession of a handgun while intoxicated and unlawful possession of a weapon after he reportedly came home intoxicated and found a male at home with his wife.

Candus Wells told Deputy Kyle Shively that her husband assumed she was cheating on him, argued with them and then he pushed her down, causing injury to her knee.

Wells was leaving in a pickup as deputies arrived, but he came back while deputies were still there and was arrested.

Police said Wells was under the influence of alcohol and found in possession of a .22 caliber handgun in his pickup. He admitted to having a felony conviction in Utah.

This past April, Wells pleaded guilty in Hawkins County Sessions Court to possession of a handgun while under the influence. The other two charges were dismissed.

He was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days on probation, 96 hours of community service and his gun was forfeited to the state.

On Oct. 15, 2020, Candus Wells filed an order of protection in Sessions Court against Donald Wells.

In the affidavit, Candus Wells stated, “He drinks and throws things. I am afraid of being hurt. He is abusive physically and mentally toward me. 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.”

Donnie also had some older offenses in Utah:

According to the Utah Department of Corrections Donald Wells was incarcerated in Utah for the following offenses: third degree felonies for theft, burglary and forgery; a second degree felony for theft by receiving stolen property; and a misdemeanor for revocation/suspension.

The Utah DOC said he’s been in and out of prison since 1995. He was discharged from prison and supervision in April 2003. 

When asked what the convictions were for, Donald Wells said, “I’ve had several charges over the years. I used to have … I don’t know if I should elaborate on any of that. It’s nothing really good. I wasn’t really a Christian when I was younger. I found God in prison. I started studying the Bible intently because I wanted to change. That’s when I got to know God and tried hard to be a Christian. Of course, I’ve backslid multiple times, but I’ll never let it happen again.”

Donnie also acknowledged at this time that his 34-year-old son Donald Wesley Wells is a convicted sex offender, having pleaded guilty in Arkansas in 2007 to sexual indecency with a child.

Donald Jr was in Utah at the time of Summer’s disappearance.  

“No way would he think of something like this,” Wells said. “When I first told him he bawled like a little baby. My sisters all cried.”

Donnie also said his son’s Arkansas offense would have been considered statutory rape in Tennessee because his son was 19 at the time, and the victim was a girlfriend who was 18 months younger.

On June 25, 2021, Audio from the emergency scanners the night SW went missing is obtained by News Channel 11 –

“You be in route to 110 one-one-zero Ben Hill Road off of Beech Creek it will the first resident on your right, in reference to a missing 4-year old. The parents have called in advised that the mother had went for a walk, came home and now they can’t find her, they have been yelling for her, she has been gone for about ten minutes now.”

On June 26, the TBI asked for the driver of a Toyota pickup truck to come forward after a witness reported seeing it in the Beech Creek area in the late afternoon or early evening on June 14 or June 15. 

Officials said the person may have seen something related to Summer’s disappearance. The truck was described as a “1998-2000 maroon or red Toyota Tacoma, with a full bed ladder rack along with white buckets in the truck bed.” To date, the driver has not been found.

On June 27, (12 days after Summer was last seen), authorities announced that they would be scaling back the search for her.

By this point, The search had utilized over 120 agencies from Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

Since the day Summer disappeared, over 1,150 searchers had taken part in looking for her.  

Over 13,800 search hours were logged.

TBI fixed wing flew 21.2 hours

The THP helicopter logged 30 hours of flight.

Numerous specialized search and rescue groups include (but are not limited to): TN Task Force 2, BURSAR, 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.

There are some photos of Summer with longer blonde hair and recent photos of her with shaved hair.

Her mother spoke to the media for the first time on June 28 and said 

— “[Summer] was a tomboy,” [Candus said. “I shaved my head; she wanted to shave her head like me and the boys did.”

Donnie added that Summer tried to shave her head herself.

. “I think you can see it in some of the pictures, and it was getting out of control, and we decided to shave her head off and let it grow back long. And Candus shaved her head too — so [Summer] wouldn’t feel bad. And…but…it didn’t bother her.

On July 2, Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told WJHL they had received no solid leads from the over 750 tips called in. The TBI said later on the same day that they were at 799 tips.  Authorities asked again for info about the red or maroon Toyota Tacoma that we spoke about earlier.  The TBI emphasized that the driver was not a suspect  but a potential witness that might have seen something that could direct investigators to a lead.

By July 9, over 900 tips had been received in this case.  Sheriff Lawson reiterated that there was no specific person of interest in the case.  

‘ And like I said, everybody’s a suspect now, everything’s on the table, and our main focus is to find Summer, to bring her home. Whichever way it goes with a suspect or she’s lost in the woods, or whatever, been abducted whatever, everything’s on the table. We’re not just focusing on one thing, because we have no reason to.”

On July 12, Sheriff Lawson said that he had little hope that Summer was still alive.  Donnie also told WJHL on this day that he, Candus (Summer’s mother) and Candus (grandmother) all passed polygraph tests.

On July 24, Summer’s three brothers were removed from the Wells home by DCS.

Donald spoke to the Times News again.  He wouldn’t discuss specifics about why the boys were removed from their home by the Department of Children’s services except to say it’s not safe there. 

“Right now it’s not safe at my house,” Donnie said. “There’s too much going on and people are crazier than hell, and right now it’s just not safe at my house. There’s too much going on. Too many crazy people coming around trying to start stuff.”

He said he’s had a problem with amateur crime solvers and psychics trespassing at his home, and walking up to his house in the middle of the night.

Wells: “People blow this out of proportion. They think my wife — it’s just crazy. It’s just absolutely insane, and it’s not safe for my kids.”

KTN: Who’s coming around your house?

Wells: “All sorts of people. Juanita (Szahranksi) for one. They think she’s a psychic and she has some sort of special gift, and we don’t need her crazy ass stopping at our house. She claims to be a Christian, and then she claims to be a psychic. How does that work? If you’re a Christian, God says you don’t go there, period. It’s against God.”

KTN: Is anybody else coming to your home?

Wells: “We’ve had a few people come in the middle of the night. We had one – I don’t think he’ll be coming back to our house anymore, though.”
When asked if his three sons were in state custody or staying with friends or relatives, Wells replied, “I can’t answer any questions, buddy. I’m not going to go there.”
Wells: “All this speculation is getting worse, and worse and worse. People are threatening us, and it’s not safe at my house. We’re hoping if something happens things will start to get safer, but the way things are going it’s just getting worse and worse.”

September 15 marked three months since Summer disappeared.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation provided an update into the investigation. Over 1,200 tips had been submitted to authorities, though officials said most of them are the product of rumors and speculation. Officials are also still on the lookout for the 1998-2000 maroon Toyota Tacoma truck that was possibly spotted in the area near the time Summer went missing. Those with any information on the case are asked to contact 1-800-TBI-FIND.

On October 7, Don spoke to WVLT about what he believes happened on the day Summer disappeared.  ”We don’t know if someone was waiting in the basement or if she come outside here and went to the swing or possibly back up there to grandma’s. We don’t know. All we know is that she went down the basement. That’s the only thing we know. To play with her toys,” 

He said the basement door at their home was typically left open or unlocked.

“The boys a lot of times would leave this unlocked and wide open a bunch of times, and we’d get on them a lot and tell them ‘you can’t do that’ but we’d always find it open a bunch of times. We tried to control that but we couldn’t control that 100 percent of the time,” 

From there, Don shared he feels Summer was carried down a steep and rugged trail, just a few feet away from the house.

Don says while this was happening, he was at work, his sons were inside the home and Summer’s mother and grandmother were outside of the home facing away from the basement door.

“Well I think whoever grabbed her probably had her mouth covered, and I think she was gasping for air by the time she got somewhere down here because our neighbor heard a scream. A really funny scream and she’s been telling us that all along,” says Wells.

Don says search dogs lost Summer’s scent once the trail ended at the road. From there he says he believes someone put his daughter in a car and drove off.
He also told reporters that the area near their home sees a lot of drug activity.

“Well, you get all kinds with the drug trade and there are… you know…. We’ve seen quite a bit of stuff surrounding the meth thing. We had them parked in…. Our neighbors caught them parked at our road, in the driveway in the middle of the night, or early in the morning. Stuff like that and run them off, and get mad. They’d raise cane. We’d had quite a bit of problems out of them, but since we’d been all over them and everything with camera crews and whatever, it’s quiet down a lot. But it was pretty bad for quite a while,” said Wells.

On October 14, Donnie and Candus started a YouTube channel that is dedicated to finding Summer. 

On October 26, a gag order was issued in this case.

It was issued by Juvenile Court Judge Daniel Boyd. “All parties to this action are hereby prohibited from discussing this matter or the children with the media or any other nonessential person entity and/or uninvolved or disinterred parties and/or persons,” the order stated.

On October 30, 2021 Donald Wells was arrested.  According to Sergeant Betty Crawford with the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office, Wells is facing multiple charges, including driving under the influence, having an open container, violation of financial responsibility and others.

Candus and Don appeared on the Dr Phil show in November 2021.   The episode is titled “ Summer Wells Disappearance: What Do the Parents Know?

During filming, Candus walked out on Dr Phil.  She later told the media it was because they had been given a tip that a girl matching Summer’s description had been found.  Her parents seemed to get their hopes up, only to have them dashed when the child did not turn out to be Summer.

“Then we got word and pictures of the little girl that was maybe rescued,” said Candus “It wasn’t Summer. It was not our daughter, Summer. It was like losing her all over again.”

I believe she was implying that she was distraught about that incident before the interview even began.  

The Behavior Panel started to ask Candus questions during filming about her possible involvement in the disappearance of Summer and this is when she walked out. Candus told reporters later that she was told by Dr Phil producers to either ‘ go quiet or walk away’  if she was being interrogated, and this is what she did, I guess.

“Don’t take me back to hell when I feel like I’m sitting in hell,” Candus said. “Your children are who you are. Women take daggers in their hearts that no man will ever understand. So then they start asking me if I had anything to do with Summer missing. That was it.”

Our favorite journalist Brian Entin has recently travelled to Tennessee to cover Summer’s case.  

“It’s interesting to be coming into a case five months in and hear investigators say that we’re basically in the same place that we started….and you think that there would be some progress,” Brian said. “It’s just such a bizarre story, and I think that’s why people are interested.”

Brian spoke with Don Wells, but was unable to interview Summer’s mother, Candus.

“We obviously wanted to talk to Candus, and he said that she was just too emotional at this point,” Entin said. “It seems like Don is really concerned about the public’s perception of Candus coming off of the Dr. Phil interview.”

Brain also spoke to Sheriff Ronnie Hawkins and asked about the possibility of the parents being suspects.

“I asked him, ‘Do you believe that Don and Candus are involved?’ and he said, ‘We’re not ruling anyone out at this point,’” Brian said.

Brian did also confirm that the Sheriff told him both Don and Candus passed a polygraph test in relation to Summer’s case.

As of (recording date), Summer is still missing.  The reward for her return is now up over $70k.  

Earlier this week, the TBI announced that they were conducting more searches for Summer.  

The focus of the new searches seems to be overgrown areas that authorities said “were previously difficult to access due to high grass and heavy foliage.”

Check for any other search updates.

Donald spoke to the Kingsport Times News and said  “Statistically speaking, there’s a good chance she’s already dead.  I hate to think that. I love her with all my heart.”

“If nothing else,” he continued, “I’ll see her in the resurrection. As long as I keep the commandments and do what I’m supposed to do, I’ll see her.”

Make sure to listen to our podcast episode on Summer where we discuss theories about her case.

These are the clips referenced in our podcast episode for Summer:

One thought on “Lost in Tennessee – where is Summer Wells?

  1. Are they searching for Summer on the drive from Ally and Hunters home? I don’t think she ever made it back to Ben hill rd., Have they searched the blue pipe thing you can see as you leave basement door, Candus told ChrisMcdonnah they put their trash in there when trash pickup failed to pickup trash.

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