HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Hawkins County Chancery Court has declared a judgment in the fate of the Summer Wells Reward Fund.
The fund, which totals $40,365.73, was created and managed by the Church Hill Rescue Squad in 2021 after then-5-year-old Summer Wells was reported missing from her home in the Beech Creek community. The fund was created in an effort to provide a reward in exchange for information that led to the discovery of Summer.
Initially, the fund was set to expire in six months after it was created, at which time the funds would be donated to the Child Advocacy Center of the Third Judicial District if Summer had not been found. That term was later extended by an additional six months.
In June 2022, the rescue squad filed a lawsuit asking the court to determine who would receive the funds. The lawsuit listed Summer’s parents, Candus Bly and Donald Wells, as defendants, as well as the Children’s Advocacy Center and one other individual.
Summer’s parents were later dropped as defendants, and a spokesperson for the family said in a statement that they wished to remain separate from the fund.
Court documents state that notice was sent to all defendants in the lawsuit along with a summons. According to a judgment from the court, the Children’s Advocacy Center was the only defendant to file and answer requesting to receive the funds.
The court found that due to the center’s response and the rescue squad’s lack of objection, the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Third Judicial District will be the sole beneficiary of the Summer Wells Reward Fund. The advocacy center, which aids abused children in Tennessee, will receive the full $40,365.73.
Court documents also state that all donors and interested parties, whether they have made themselves known or not, are barred from prosecuting or taking any action against the Church Hill Rescue Squad in dispute of the funds.
In addition, the court costs for the handling of the case will be taxed from the reward fund and “deducted from the proceeds to be paid.” The remaining balance in the reward fund will be donated to the advocacy center in the form of a check made out by the rescue squad.
The AMBER Alert for Summer remains active. Feb. 4 marked her seventh birthday.