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Watch now: 'I'll see her in the resurrection': A month later, Summer Wells' dad has little hope for her recovery

ROGERSVILLE — Nearly a month after 5-year-old Summer Wells disappeared from her rural Hawkins County home, her father has all but given up on ever seeing her alive again.

Summer Wells

“I’ll see her in the resurrection,” Donald Wells said on Monday.

Wells spoke with the Times News on Monday about how his family has been coping with the loss of Summer over the past four weeks, outside influences such as social media and the need to continue living their lives.

Wells was at work at the time of Summer’s disappearance on the evening of June 15.

Summer’s mother, Candus Wells, and three brothers reported to police that Summer was last seen on June 15 around 5:30 p.m. going into the basement of their home on Ben Hill Road in the Beech Creek community of Hawkins County.

courtesy of TBI 

The photo contributed by the TBI illustrates the rugged terrain rescuers are enduring in the search for 5-year-old Summer Wells.

Donald Wells has believed since day one that Summer was abducted from their home.

He said that belief was confirmed fairly quickly by search dogs that picked up her scent in the back yard and followed a “dog trail” through the woods that ended at Ben Hill Road.

“We’ve had several people sneaking around there, but we’ve had them sneaking around at night,” Wells said. “We’ve never had somebody up there at 5:30 in the afternoon that we know of. They didn’t come up the driveway. They came up a dog trail from the woods. The (police K-9) dog that they used, that’s where the scent took them. Down through the woods, not the driveway. At Ben Hill Road is where the dog’s scent ended. I already knew all that, but that just confirmed it for me.”

Wells added, “It’s real discouraging. Only God can turn this around at this point. … The police can’t come up with anything. All these people on Facebook all over the world can’t come up with anything. Nobody can. Only God can. Somebody was either hiding in the weeds there waiting for her to go in the basement. They (her mother and brothers) weren’t 30 feet away when she got gone.”

KTN: How is your family coping a month later?

Summer Wells' mother Candus Wells

Wells: “My wife isn’t doing too good. She’s pretty upset. She has some anger issues, and all this stuff on social media. … Right now she’s so tore up, and it’s just getting worse for her. It’s bad for me, too. I’d do anything to have my baby back. I’ve got to put my faith in God. If it wasn’t for that, I’d have lost it a long time ago.”

KTN: How are your three sons doing?

Wells: “They’re coping with it OK. I don’t know why, but they’re dealing with it OK. They’re doing a lot better than me and Candus are. Maybe my kids are looking at it like, maybe God will bring her back. I don’t know. 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, 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.”

Summer Wells with her three brothers at church in Kingsport.

KTN: Any concerns about sending your sons back to school?

Wells: “We don’t have a choice. We were sending them down to the school bus (stop on Beech Creek Road) by themselves, but I don’t think we’ll ever do that again.”

Wells stated that the family is attempting to return to some semblance of normal life. He said, “I’ve made up my mind not to let Satan win.”

KTN: How do you do that?

Wells: “Not let him get me down. I could be down and not go back to work and let it affect me in every way. But I can’t do that. I’ve still got to move forward. I’ve still got to go to work. I’ve still got to try, even though I miss her. We live in an evil world. I’m not the first one to lose a family member. All sort of tragedies have happened since the beginning of creation. There’s been all kinds of bad stuff going on.”

He also stated that despite past issues with alcohol, “I’m not going top let Satan convince me to go drinking.”

Wells: “I’m not going down that road. I choose life. I choose God. Before in my life I was weaker, and just the least little thing would be an excuse to go get drunk. Not no more. This is the most horrific thing I could have even thought of happening.”

KTN: Has your theory about what happened to Summer changed?

Wells: “No. She’s been abducted in my mind, 100%. I know Candus wouldn’t lie to me about any of the facts. She has no reason to, and she wouldn’t lie.”

KTN: How did lie detector tests play into the investigation?

Wells: “At first I didn’t get no sleep for two days. I couldn’t sleep for two days. It was the worst misery and pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I wasn’t able to take a lie detector test. They made me wait a little bit, but when I did take it I passed. They made Candus wait five days longer to take hers. She just wasn’t able to. She tried and she wasn’t able to. People are saying we failed and we took another test. That’s not the case, so when we did take them we both passed.”

KTN: Did they ever do any questioning of your sons?

Wells: “They took them into specialists because they couldn’t come out and question them. But yes, they have questioned them. They also gave my mother-in-law a lie-detector test, and she also passed.”

KTN: Is social media still affecting your family?

Wells: “Somebody made a fake (social media) account with me, and then they put on there that I buried some other woman’s body at the lake. So the TBI has been at the lake looking for her body. It’s just ridiculous what people are doing. And these psychics, and what they’re saying and doing whatever they can to get their story out there. The Bible says clearly it’s an abomination. When you’re with a psychic and you think you’re talking to your dead relatives, that’s untrue. Jesus made it clear that when you die you sleep until the resurrection. You have no conscious state whatsoever. So if you’re talking to somebody, it’s an evil spirit.”

Wells said the past month has been like a bad dream, but he is hanging on to his memories of Summer

Wells: “We had such a great love for each other. She loved me, and I don’t know why. I’ve never had someone love me that much in my life, and it’s been awesome between me and her. It really has killed me since she’s been gone. At first it was so horrific knowing that someone abducted her, and the cops are looking all around our house knowing that she’s not there. I wish the cops would have blocked off both ends of Beech Creek and contained our area because I’m sure she’s hundreds of miles away. I can’t blame them, but I’m really upset. It’s too little too late now.”

Summer stands 3 feet tall, and she is 40 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing gray pants and a pink shirt and might have been barefoot.

Anyone who has seen Summer or has information on her whereabouts is asked to call the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at (423) 272-7121 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.


Politics
AP
Afghan vet: 'What have we ended up with at the end of it?'

Images of the World Trade Center towers collapsing in New York were still fresh in the minds of the first American troops arriving in Afghanistan, as the U.S. launched an invasion targeting the Afghanistan-based al-Qaida leaders who plotted the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. More than 800,000 U.S. troops have served in the Central Asian country since then, in a war that quickly expanded to confronting Afghanistan’s Taliban and to nation-building. On Monday, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, relinquished his command in Kabul, underscoring the winding down of America’s longest war.

One-third of the roughly 4 million troops who served in the post-Sept. 11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq served multiple tours, some in well-secured bases in times of comparative quiet, others facing improvised explosive devices on the roads, mortar and rocket attacks on their positions, and firefights. While the U.S. quickly succeeded in quelling the al-Qaida fighters behind the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans leave with the Taliban rapidly claiming fresh territory. Many Afghans fear the return of civil war, or strict Taliban rule, with the Western troops’ departure.

The Associated Press talked to some of the U.S. veterans of Afghanistan as Americans withdraw.

ARMY VETERAN

For Andrew Brennan, 36, it’s the days the painful memories subside that bother him. A former Army captain who flew combat missions, Brennan lost one of his closest friends, pilot Bryan Nichols, when his Chinook helicopter was shot down in 2011, killing 30 Americans, seven Afghan soldiers and one interpreter. It was the single deadliest day for U.S. troops during the war.

Brennan spent a week helping recover the bodies.

“As much as I hate admitting it, there are days that go by when I don’t think about Bryan, our crew and the team guys on the back of that aircraft. And if I don’t think about it and I was that close to it, what do most Americans think?” the Baltimore man wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Brennan has worn a Killed in Action bracelet in honor of Nichols for nearly a decade. He has worked to get a memorial wall built for Sept. 11 veterans.

While he honors those who sacrificed their lives, he believes it was a senseless war.

“What have we ended up with at the end of it, other than trillions spent, 7,000+ Americans dead, and more than two broken generations of warriors?” Brennan wrote.

“The only stakeholder group that learned anything through this entire period were politicians: They learned that the American population is so removed from their modern day ‘legions’ that they can do anything with our nation’s all-volunteer military and no one will pay attention or care enough to change it.”

MARINE VETERAN

Marine veteran Jennifer Brofer will never forget the loud, popping noise.

It was on a hot July afternoon in 2010 when her convoy rolled over an IED on a road in Helmand Province four months into her deployment to Afghanistan. Her heart froze as she and her fellow Marines stopped and realized what had occurred. But what followed were only the sounds of daily life.

This was a lucky day.

“For some reason, it did not detonate,” the former staff sergeant said.

It was a defining moment to be that close to death, said Brofer, one of the comparatively few female Marines to serve in America’s longest war.

A public affairs officer, Brofer was charged with documenting the stories of troops.

“Those moments in Afghanistan really put everything into perspective for me. Because I really didn’t fully appreciate all of the luxuries that I had been afforded prior to my deployment,” such as hugs from loved ones, hot showers and driving down a road without fear of her vehicle exploding, she said.

Brofer, 38, who now works in the television and film industries in Hollywood, said she feels proud to have served “shoulder-to-shoulder with my male Marine counterparts” in a time of war.

Still, Brofer can’t say whether the war was worth it.

“War is ugly. And sometimes it’s necessary, and it’s not like we can go back and change anything. We can only change how we respond in the future,” she said. “When I was deployed it was already considered then the longest war, and I think it’s about time that our men and women came home.”

NATIONAL GUARD

After the United States launched a second war, in Iraq, in 2003, Oklahoma National Guard Sgt. Eran Harrill was one of hundreds of thousands of guard members called to duty as an all-volunteer U.S. military strained to fight two wars simultaneously.

Harrill fought in 2011 as part of a combat unit in Afghanistan’s Laghman Province, as the U.S. surged troops in hopes of crippling Afghanistan’s Taliban. A marketing director and business development executive in Oklahoma City, he patrolled alongside a mechanic, a K-9 police officer, students and other Oklahomans.

“The very first firefight we got in was certainly an aha moment” for the citizen soldiers, Harrill said.

“I think we did some good there, maybe helped some people and prevented some loss of life,” said Harrill, 38, who had always wanted to serve in the military, while some guard colleagues had seen it as a way to bring in money for college. “Was it worth the loss of life we had? I don’t know, that’s for someone else to answer.”

Back home, Harrill served in jobs that included leading Oklahoma City’s Black Chamber of Commerce. He’s developing a directory aimed at identifying which employers are most suitable for members of the military like National Guard members.

That’s after seeing guard members struggle with bosses unhappy over time away for training and deployment, including managers who reached out to a deployed guard member in the field to threaten him with firing if he didn’t return.

“We have a bad habit in this country of putting little yellow ribbons, ‘support our troops,’ in the window,” Harrill said. “But we don’t really support our troops as to how it affects us when the rubber hits the road.”


Crime
featured
Bankruptcy court's estimate of settlement from Purdue Pharma accepted by Sullivan County

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission’s Executive Committee agreed Monday to accept $5 billion-$10 billion as the amount of the “global pie” offered by a bankruptcy court as the estimated assets of Purdue Pharma. That “pie” will be divided at a later date among plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits against the company.

Sullivan County is among plaintiffs who filed suits against Purdue, the maker of Oxycontin, for damages caused by opioid addiction.

Tricia Herzfeld is an attorney with Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, the firm representing Baby Doe and participating cities and counties. Herzfeld spoke with the Executive Committee by video call to explain the settlement offer.

Herzfeld said Purdue Pharma was owned by the Sackler family, and it has been estimated over several years, in anticipation of potential lawsuits over the addictiveness of Oxycontin, family members has removed as much as $10 billion from the business and “left the cupboards bare.”

Herzfeld said lawyers for the plaintiffs rejected multiple previous, lower offers for how much the family would agree to turn over for distribution by the bankruptcy court, but their legal advice now is the current offer of about $5 billion is the best that will come. Herzfeld said Purdue Pharma won’t continue as the same business, but it will have a successor and profits from the successor will stream to plaintiffs for years to come. That’s where the $10 billion high-end settlement estimate comes in.

District Attorney General Barry Staubus stressed that the $5 billion to $10 billion figure is the whole “pie” to be divided among plaintiffs nationwide. Plaintiffs range from individuals, to district attorneys, to cities, to entire states.

Staubus said how the settlement is divided is another step. Large states such as California or Texas might argue for it to be divided by population. Staubus said plaintiffs in our region will argue division should be based on percentage of population damaged by the opioid crisis.

Herzfeld said there is no way at this point to know how much of the Purdue settlement will come to Sullivan County.

The Sullivan Baby Doe lawsuit was originally filed on June 13, 2017, by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third judicial districts in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport. The complaint originally listed prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt PLC, Endo Pharmaceuticals, a pill mill doctor and other convicted opioid dealers as defendants.

As part of the national scrutiny brought to bear on opioid producers and distributors, due in part to Sullivan Baby Doe’s arguments, Purdue and Mallinckrodt have declared bankruptcy, with claims proceeding against them in related courts. Endo remains the only active corporate defendant.

Plaintiffs in the Sullivan Baby Doe case are seeking $2.4 billion in compensatory damages, and punitive damages above and beyond that amount.

A default judgment in the plaintiff’s favor was issued by the court in April. A damages trial against Endo is scheduled to begin in less than two weeks.

The Sullivan County Commission’s rules authorize the Executive Committee to negotiate and make decisions regarding lawsuits.


Local-news
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Where were you when you witnessed history?

This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. As the world watched the towers fall, most of us made note of where we were, how we felt and what it would mean for the future of our nation. Were you in school? On the phone? With your loved ones? What do you remember?

The Times News wants to hear your story. In a special video project commemorating the Sept. 11 attacks, residents will have a chance to share their memories on-camera. This is a unique opportunity to remember how the events of Sept. 11 impacted the local community and document individual experiences in a meaningful way.

Testimonials will take place throughout the summer at the Times News, 701 Lynn Garden Drive in Kingsport.

If interested, contact Audrey Shuppert at ashuppert@timesnews.net to schedule a date and time.


Crime
featured
Watch now: KPD Lynn Garden Substation opening to public two days a week

KINGSPORT — In response to an increase in police calls from the Lynn Garden area and citizens’ support for more police presence there, city police will provide limited staffing of a police substation starting this week.

The Kingsport Police Department’s Lynn Garden Substation is on the right on McDonald’s side of the Kingsport Fire Department’s Station No. 5, 1517 Lynn Garden Drive.

The word “POLICE” has been added to the fire department marquee adjacent to the road, and new signs have also been added on the door and near the entrance.

“While there has been a police substation at this location for decades, this is the first time that it will be open to the public,” KPD Public Information Officer Tom Patton said in a Monday morning news release.

In an afternoon interview at the substation, Patton said it’s like other substations in which officers can do reports, use the phone, eat a meal or use the restroom.

However, starting Wednesday, the Lynn Garden Substation will be open to the pubic Wednesday and Friday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon and Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

WHAT DO FOLKS THINK ABOUT PLAN?

Jim Wells, who grew up in Lynn Garden and serves on the Lynn View Community Center Advisory Board, said he supports the plan “100%” and hopes it will be staffed more frequently in the future and become a place for citizens to get answers or be connected to where the answers are.

Elisa Haynes, a nearly 20-year resident of Lynn Garden, said Lynn Garden needs additional patrols.

“That is a start. I’m so happy with a start. The city is finally recognizing we have a problem out here,” Haynes said.

Mike Kerney, owner and operator of Lynn Garden Restaurant, said he hopes the change helps the community. Over the 32 years he’s been a businessman there, he said many businesses closed.

CITY OF KINGSPORT 

Pat Shull

WHY THE PUBLIC HOURS?

“They thought a bigger police presence would help,” Mayor Pat Shull said of Police Chief Dale Phipps and City Manager Chris McCartt. “Several residents had contacted us off and on, concerned about various activities going on the Lynn Garden area.”

Wells said Lynn Garden issues include domestic violence, drugs and homelessness.

“Our decision to begin staffing this substation comes as a result of increased community concerns and our own observations regarding a high volume of police calls for service in this specific part of the city,” Phipps said in the news release. “Our hope is that an increase in police visibility in this particular area will serve as a crime deterrent and help reduce the high demand for police resources, while at the same time help the residents of the Lynn Garden community feel a little bit safer.”

KINGSPORT POLICE DEPARTMENT 

Dale Phipps, Kingsport police chief

WHAT IS A ‘LISTENING POST?’

Patton said the idea is for the Lynn Garden Substation to serve as a “community listening post.” During the open hours, Patton said it will be staffed by a patrol watch commander or other department supervisor, who will be available to take “walk-in” reports as well as listen to and help address complaints and concerns expressed by citizens of the Lynn Garden community.

Patton also said police are still available to respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Citizens can come to the Justice Center, 200 Shelby St. in Downtown Kingsport, or call Kingsport Central Dispatch at (423) 246-9111, or 911 if an emergency, if in need of police assistance.

In addition to city police, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office also will have access to the substation. Should a need arise for a sheriff’s deputy or supervisor to meet with a citizen in this part of Sullivan County, this could be done.

Any inquiries involving the sheriff’s office should be directed to that agency, Patton said.

Additional police substations are located at Fire Stations No. 6 in Colonial Heights, No. 7 in Rock Springs and No. 8 on New Beason Well Road just off East Stone Drive. However, none of those substations is open to the public.

Patton said “if this investment in the Lynn Garden community proves successful, and overall police department staffing levels improve,” the department will be open to considering opening of some of these other substations to the public in the future.

“I think it’s good we can show more presence in the (Lynn Garden) neighborhood, but I’m really concerned we need to hire more police over all,” Shull said.


The Toronto Blue Jays selected Tennessee right-hander Chad Dallas in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball draft on Monday.


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