Father of Missing Tenn. Girl Who Vanished a Year Ago Speaks Out After Jail Release

Summer Wells was reported missing from her Hawkins County home on the evening of June 15, 2021

Don Wells father of Summer Wells
Photo: WJHL

The father of Summer Wells, who went missing in June, 2021, is breaking his silence after being released from jail for a DUI charge.

Donald Wells told Tennessee news station WJHL-TV in an on-camera interview that their family is still focused on finding Summer, who disappeared in June 2021 at the age of 5 after picking flowers with her mother and grandmother. She would have turned 7 this weekend.

"I don't really want to celebrate her birthday without her," Donald said. "She was definitely going to be tall, probably as tall as me, I'd say because she was growing so fast. I'm sure she would be the same person. And she didn't have any qualms about taking on her brothers, that's for sure. She didn't hesitate to put them in their place real quick."

He noted that the family won't give up on finding her.

"We have to prepare ourselves for a worst-case scenario," he said. "You know, we could always hope for a good scenario."

But Donald said the family has been plagued by one bad thing after another. A month after she went missing, the Department of Children's Services also took custody of his three older children, all sons. Then, he had to serve an eight month sentence for a DUI charge.

Donald finally got released from jail on Oct. 30, 2022. Being behind bars, he said, was very isolating but dove him into his faith.

"One of the guards gave me a copy of the New Living Translation Bible. So I found that to be about the best book there was. So I read," Donald told the news station. "I read it several times because what else was there really to do? I was in [a] 23-hour lockdown for my safety, they say."

He said that while he was in jail his wife Candus was able to contact his sons but once he got out, everything changed.

"Suddenly I wasn't — we weren't allowed to contact them at all," he said, adding that his new priority was to get his family back together again. "We really want our boys back home. If, you know, if Summer was to be found today, we wouldn't be able to see her or talk to her. And we can't talk to our boys."

Summer Wells
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/ twitter

In a Jan. 23 post to the family's website, titled "Find Summer Wells," Donald opened up more in depth about the custody battle to bring his sons home, claiming that their assigned lawyer won't return their calls and the regional DCS contact has not responded to their emails despite there being "no charges against us."

"[DCS is] doing nothing to help us. In fact, they're making us jump through all kinds of hoops, which is almost impossible to jump through all of them and hold a job and do all these things and making it real, real tough on us," said Wells.

PEOPLE reached out to DCS for comment. A lawyer for Donald could not be found.

On top of that, Donald said his wife Candus "has been in the emergency room four times for heart problems" and they were looking at "eventually doing major surgery" to "correct the problem with her heart.

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Summer was reported missing from her Hawkins County home on the evening of June 15, 2021, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The following morning, an Amber Alert was issued for the girl.

"She was planting flowers with her mother and her grandmother, and she wanted to go into the house — wanted to go downstairs and play with her toys," Donald said after the amber alert was issued per WSMV. "I went down in the basement, and she was gone, so she went out the basement door, which was unlocked, and we haven't seen her since."

During a press conference, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Leslie Earhart told reporters the circumstances leading up to Summer's disappearance remain unclear, as it was uncharacteristic of Summer to wander off from home.

Despite several leads and tips submitted early on in the investigation, nearly two years later, Summer is still missing and her AMBER Alert remains active.

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