ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — Summer Wells has been missing since June 15. There have been no new leads in the case, and the Rogersville community — less than 5,000 tight-knit people — is very protective of the family. Some on social media warned NewsNation to stay away.
Our trip to the missing 5-year-old’s hometown revealed an investigation just as stumped as the millions following her case.
“We really don’t know anything more,” Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said. “Everybody that is involved in this case is a person of interest. We have not ruled anyone out.”
That includes Summer’s parents, Don and Candus Wells. They have done few interviews since Summer vanished in June, but Don Wells agreed to speak with NewsNation on Monday.
“I know in my heart and in my mind she was abducted,” Don Wells told NewsNation. “Someone snuck up there and we were not exactly paying attention. And we don’t know if they came in the basement and grabbed her or if she stepped outside the basement and was walking to her swing or something.”
Summer was home with her mom and young brothers when she disappeared. Her grandmother was also on the property. Her family believes she may have been taken down a steep hill behind the home — possibly to a waiting car along the road.
The sheriff says the Wellses are cooperating, but there is no evidence that Summer was kidnapped or abducted. “We are still checking into people they associated with,” Lawson said. “We still have a long way to go. They associate with a lot of people.”
A popular theory on social media involves the Cornbread Mafia, which is a rumored group of underground marijuana growers and traffickers. Lawson said he did not know of any human traffickers in the area.
Candus Wells did an interview with Chris McDonough’s “The Interview Room” podcast in July. The podcast showed their cluttered house, and the back door Summer may have disappeared through.
While Don Wells has granted a handful of interviews, Candus has been more reluctant. Don Wells said they had to “beg” her to go on “Dr. Phil.”
The episode aired last week. At one point, Candus walked off the set after saying she was being “interrogated” again and didn’t “want to do this no more.”
Don Wells told NewsNation public opinion “turned on her” and “just ruined her.”
Both Candus and Don Wells passed a polygraph test, but Lawson’s statement that everyone is still a person of interest is leading some to wonder if the Wellses may know more than they’ve said.
“She is a good mother. She loves her children,” Don Wells told NewsNation. “She is not going to allow any situation like that. The biggest mistake she might have made is choosing some wrong friends.”
When asked if any of those wrong friends have anything to do with Summer’s disappearance, Don Wells said, “We don’t know.”
On Oct. 30, shortly after the Wells family returned from Hollywood to film “Dr. Phil,” Don Wells was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. That incident also violated his parole for a handgun possession charge.
Don Wells was adamant that substance issues had nothing to do with Summer’s disappearance. “No. We can’t go there,” he told NewsNation.
Don Wells said he was limited in what he could discuss about the family and the case. Social services took Summer’s three brothers from the home earlier this year.
Wells initially agreed to take NewsNation around his property, but then changed his mind. He said he wanted the focus to remain on Summer and finding whoever took her.
“I love, we love our daughter with all our hearts,” Don Wells said. “We miss her. We will do anything to have her back in that church with us she so loves.”
Detectives are looking for a red or maroon pickup truck that was seen in the area when Summer went missing, but Lawson admitted he’s not even sure it is connected to the case.