HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) on Wednesday hosted a briefing regarding the ongoing search for a Hawkins County 6-year-old who vanished from her Beech Creek home on June 15, 2021.
Then-5-year-old Summer Wells has not been seen since she was reported missing by family members one year ago, and law enforcement spearheading the search said numerous searches spanning thousands of acres and an influx of tips have yielded no new results.
TBI spokesperson Leslie Earheart said at the briefing that early on in the investigation, law enforcement did not expect the case to be so out-of-the-norm.
“When we held the first media briefing on June 16 , honestly, we expected to have good news to report by the time the next media briefing came around,” Earheart said. “Unfortunately, instead, day after day ended in frustration and disappointment.
“At that time, no one expected that we would still be searching for Summer one year later.”
More than 100 agents, analysts and support staff from the TBI alone have assisted throughout the case, Earheart stated, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducting nearly 170 interviews — not including the hundreds of follow-up calls on tips.
“Agents and detectives have spent thousands of hours on this case,” she said. “Numerous search warrants have been executed. Cellphone data has been analyzed, and any other available digital evidence has been collected, searched and documented. This includes the social media accounts of those associated with Summer.”
According to Earheart, an obstacle law enforcement has faced throughout the investigation — other than the rough terrain that envelopes the area in which Summer was last seen — includes speculation and social media rumors.
“While investigators have been diligently working to find answers, they’ve had to deal with thousands of tips generated by false information that, in some cases, has been intentionally spread across social media platforms,” Earheart said. “…There are some people using this case for their own personal gain by posting false information on social media posed as facts. Some go as far as to solicit donations. This has had a major impact on the investigation — and not in a good way.”
The TBI asks the public moving forward not to submit tips based on what they hear on YouTube or theories posted on Facebook.
Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson took the podium at the briefing, mirroring Earheart’s statement that investigators did not expect the missing child case to last a year.
“We’ve never stopped looking for Summer,” he said. “We will continue to do so. There’s never been a case in the history of the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office that’s had officers work 365 days and had so many hours spent as we have in this investigation.”
Lawson said that despite the very little information released throughout the case, teams have not surrendered their efforts to find Summer.
“It’s been the goal of this team since day one to find Summer,” he said. “We’ve never stopped; we’ve never slowed down — we deal with it every day…Despite what you hear and what you see, we haven’t stopped.”
During the questioning portion of the briefing, when asked if Summer’s family was cooperating, Earheart said that the TBI is “not going to characterize cooperation at this time. Honestly, doing so does nothing but create more speculation, and it doesn’t benefit the investigation.”
The TBI did answer what may have been considered a loose end in the investigation regarding a red truck the agency pushed out at the beginning of the search effort. A special agent revealed investigators were never able to pinpoint a date and time that the truck was allegedly seen in the area close to the time of Summer’s disappearance.
The agent said that the TBI does not have another search planned, but that changes based on the tips they receive.
The entire news briefing is available at the top of this web article.