Editor’s note: This story is the latest in a series on unsolved cases in Hazard and Perry County.
HAZARD — After 18 years of searching for answers following his disappearance, the family of Mark Wells hasn’t given up.
Wells, a native of Perry County, disappeared in January 1994, leaving only a mystery and few clues behind. On what has been described as one of the coldest nights of the year, Wells, who was 21 at the time, had been with some friends in Hazard when an argument took place. He reportedly left the scene and, according to Hazard Police Chief Minor Allen, wasn’t seen again until he turned up knocking on the doors at the Burger King in the Black Gold shopping center, which was closed though a few employees remained inside.
Wells was in what had been described as a panicked state, as if someone was after him, noted Allen. It was then he attempted to get a ride from people nearby, though it is unclear what happened next, and that was the last time Wells was seen.
It was less than 24 hours earlier that Terry Noble had been murdered at the Coastal Station on Main Street. With this information fresh in the minds of the people in Hazard, Allen said it was likely that the restaurant’s employees were unwilling to let Wells in after the business had closed. And when a call came out about a panicked man trying to get help, officers with the Hazard Police Department were nearly all working on the Noble murder. Poor road conditions due to weather slowed their response time, and Allen, who was an officer with the department at the time, said he still believed they made it within 10 minutes.
“I was working that night that he disappeared,” said Chief Allen. “The roads were solid ice.”
Allen said that when officers arrived, they searched the entire area and never found Wells. They were able to locate several witnesses that said he had tried to catch rides with people who were leaving the Walmart that was then located in Black Gold shopping center. After searching all night, the search was called off and resumed the next day.
“They had looked and looked and looked that night, and they had to assume he caught a ride that night or something,” Allen said.
Then Chief Rod Maggard called in search dogs that were able to track Wells for a while. “They tracked his scent, the best I can remember, over the mountain to near the dam here at City Hall,” Allen said.
Though there were initially thoughts that the murder the day before and Wells’ disappearance may have been related, Allen said police could not make that connection, and that’s when the investigation turned to other leads. In the weeks that followed, authorities received numerous calls.
“We had close to 1,400 different calls on him,” Allen remembered. “They spent quite a lot of man hours running down these leads.”
After over a year investigating Wells’ disappearance, the case was given over to the Kentucky State Police, where detectives rechecked all of these leads. However, since it has been 18 years since Wells was last seen, his family continues to hope that the police are still looking.
Wells’ sister, Pamela Brewer, described her brother as a family man who loved his children. “Mark has two sons,” she said. “Everybody that knew him loved him.”
Brewer said that for her and her family, they would like to have closure. They said they know their brother would not have simply left, but it is hard to explain that to his children.
“What really bothers me is his sons, they don’t have a clue and they probably have in the back of their mind that their daddy up and left,” Brewer continued. “We know better because he would have never left them. They were all he had.”
Brewer added that some members of the family will never know what happened to Wells. “Our mother had to take that to her grave, not having a clue what happened to her son, and that is really hard for me to swallow,” said Brewer.
Despite the long time since his disappearance, Wells has remained on the minds of both law enforcement and the people of Hazard. Chief Allen said since there are so few cases that remain unsolved in the city, this is one that he thinks about often.
Others in the community have also been thinking about Mark Wells since a thread on the website Topix was started. Several new leads have been mentioned on the site which Chief Allen said he will look into.
Chief Allen said they are also continuing to look for people to come forward with information in this case. “I would love to find what happened to him,” said Chief Allen. “It would be very satisfying to know, and I know it would be for the family to know what happened to him.”
If you know any information in this case, law enforcement and the family of Mark Wells urge you to come forward. You can call the Hazard Police Department at (606) 436-2222 or the Kentucky State Police at (606) 435-6069.
“It has been so many years and we have tried and we are not going to give up. I am never going to give up looking for my brother,” Brewer added. “It would give us peace to know that his sons would know he did not up and leave them.”