ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- Almost a year after Summer Wells was reported missing, people are continuing the search for the missing Hawkins County girl.
“We’ve been at it for almost a year now so you have to look in all areas. We have to look in areas like this in case there was an animal attack or something of that nature,” said Chris Colbough of C&C Investigations. “We have to recanvas neighbors and re-interview witnesses in case we’re missing something in an abduction-type situation so we’re working on multiple fronts.”
C&C investigations, who are also known for their work in the Luc Vance and Thomas Hastings cases have focused their efforts on searching for Summer since last July.
“We have to charge something when we sign the contract with the Wells but the rest of this has all been done free, pro-bono,” Colbough explained. “We’ve been very lucky here that we’ve got a ‘go-to’ person with local law enforcement and they have treated us with respect.. as we do them and hopefully we can all work together on the same team and get an answer.”
Colbough says they have used a drone to search somewhere around 1,000 acres.
“Anything that we find, we take immediately and directly to law enforcement and we don’t discuss those things with anybody because the last thing we would want to do would be to hinder their investigation in any way,” he said. “[Law Enforcement] feel strongly that there could have been an animal attack. They have not ruled anything out… so again you have to sort of attack this from any direction.”
On Saturday, eight people, including one drone operator and the private investigators hired by the Well’s searched a property on the back side of Ben Hill road.
“There were rumors of footprints and things that were found in the woods when Summer went missing. If you sort of look at that evidence and the surrounding properties and the directions those footprints were headed, sort of gives you an idea of where to go look,” said Colbough. “If the property owner knows that there wasn’t a lot of people on his property then we probably needed to come out and do a thorough search… as thorough as possible. That’s the main reason we’re out here plus most of the searches in the past have concentrated on the area between Ben Hill and Fields Road so there’s a lot of interest in this area.”
First to Deploy, a non-profit drone operation group has also been assisting in the efforts.
“We do all this free of charge. We don’t charge the family, we don’t charge law enforcement so volunteer help is definitely good,” said Chris Starnes from First To Deploy. “We also use a Mavic 2 pro that allows us to shoot in 20 megapixels and we use that to run through a program called locate. Locate can detect the color of a shirt from 200 feet in the air even if it’s the size of a quarter.”
One of the drones used in the search is also equipped with an infrared camera that can detect non-recorded burials up to four years old.
“When you put someone in the ground, basically as they decompose and it kind of kills everything around it…. as everything grows back over time- it flourishes. It kind of creates super fertile soil and what you can detect on your infrared is the different color on the ground that you wouldn’t normally see with the naked eye,” Starnes added.
Saturday’s search also included a neighbor who says the environment is similar to how it was when Summer disappeared but he still doesn’t think she could be found in the area.
“It’s a lot of ground to cover. It’s very thick. I guess anything is possible… once you have seen two solid weeks of so many people covering an area so thoroughly… it doesn’t seem likely but anything is possible,” said Well’s neighbor Richard Gorley.
The private investigators typically do a search like the one Saturday once a month in the area surrounding the Wells’ Ben Hill road home. They plan to continue until she is found.