Exclusive: Search for Summer Wells has scaled back but the investigation continues

Posted at 10:03 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 13:32:18-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Children vanish and tragically, sometimes they're never found. The hope is that's not the case with Summer Wells - the missing 5-year-old out of northeast Tennessee.

It's true, the search effort has been scaled back after crews have found no trace of the child. But, no one is giving up and authorities are continuing to investigate the case behind the scenes, especially when foul play may be involved.

Unfortunately sometimes missing children are never found. Take the high-profile case of Joe Clyde Daniels for example. His father was convicted of murder, but the boy's remains were never found.

The question many ask: What's the fate of Summer Wells.

It's been more than a month since the 5-year-old was reported missing from her home in Hawkins County, Tennessee. That is a long time for a missing child.

"The longer you go the less likely you will have a successful recovery. About one percent of children survive longer than 24 hours. We hope that Summer Wells will be that one-percenter. She's going to be a one-percenter," said Margie Quinn.

She headed up the state's Amber Alert program for eleven years before leaving the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and is an expert in human trafficking.

She's not involved in the Wells investigation. But she's followed it and knows abduction is a strong possibility, but not likely for human trafficking.

"That's always the public's first thought that they've been abducted and trafficked. People who traffic are not going to abduct them. It brings too much attention."

The Summer Wells case has been highly publicized. If she were to suddenly show up on an internet site people would know. She's not there.

So, what are the TBI and FBI currently doing?

"In any case like that where they've had like nine-hundred leads you've got to look at every possible angle," said Jeremy Lofquest.

He is a TBI Special Agent in Charge working on abductions and human trafficking.

Sources have told Newschannel5 it now appears unlikely Wells just wandered off or bloodhounds certainly would have found some sign of her in the nearby woods.

So, the focus shifts more to foul play. Agent Lofquest is not directly involved with the Wells case but says it is being handled like other similar missing child cases.

"You look at all the relationships and all the circumstances from what you think is the beginning and follow the timeline."

That includes questioning parents, siblings, relatives, everyone close to the child and those who live nearby.

"Neighbors are going to be interviewed, sex offenders in the area will be interviewed. Anybody with likelihood to commit this type of crime," said Quinn.

To date, that's all been done. And still, after more than a month of searching, questioning and hundreds of tips sent to the TBI hotline, nothing. No suspects. No trace of Summer Wells.

Again, no one is giving up. But the simple fact is this: Without any credible new leads or a person who knows something coming forward, Summer Wells, like Joe Clyde Daniels - another five-year-old who vanished - may never be found.

Authorities are encouraging anyone with any type of tip no matter how small to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.