Overview of Joel Mark Wells
In 1994, a Burger King employee made a call to 911 to report a man frantically banging on the door and seemingly in distress. The man, Joel Mark Wells, quickly took off, running toward the bypass near KY 15 in Hazard, Kentucky. What happened to him and what was he running from?
This case is an unusual one because it was clear he was trying to seek help moments before he vanished.
What we know about the day leading up to, and following Joel's disappearance is sparse. On January 14, 1994, an unidentified gas station attendant is murdered which rattles the local community of Hazard, Kentucky. It is not known if the two cases are linked; however, murders in such close proximity to each other in the small town is noteworthy.
The next day was painfully cold in the evening. Businesses in the surrounding areas were closing early due to the below-zero winter temperatures. Joel was out near the Black Gold shopping center with a few unnamed friends. However, an argument occurs between him and his friends, causing Joel to walk off toward a nearby Burger King. The employees at Burger King have already locked their doors, closing early because of the bitter temperatures. Brian Adams, a Burger King employee, was exiting the kitchen when he saw Joel running towards KY 15 bypass. Adams called 911, but when police arrived there were no signs of Joel in the neighboring area.
Joel heads to the Wal-Mart in the same shopping center and asks leaving customers if he could catch a ride. Witnesses recall that he seemed panicked as if someone was after him. Joel doesn’t return home the next day and his sister begins to worry. She reports him missing to the Hazard Police Department. A few days later, police would send 13 K9 units to track Joel's scent. Unfortunately, the dogs were only able to track Joel’s scent up until the river behind the City Hall area.
Where the investigation stands today
There are still many questions surrounding Joel’s disappearance that night: Could his disappearance be related to the gas station attendant’s murder from the night before? What was he arguing about with his friends that night? Who was chasing him that evening? Was Joel targeted? Why didn’t he go inside the Walmart to seek shelter? Did he know who was after him?
There is very little available information on Joel’s case, and there have been no known arrests. Joel came from a large family and was one of fourteen children. It should be noted that he often went by Mark Wells among friends and family. He was also a father to two sons. His sister, Pam Brewer says "he was real funny, full of life, loved his family, and loved his boys."
Anyone that has any additional information or questions regarding this case should contact the Kentucky State Police Post 13 Hazard at 606-435-6069 or the Hazard Police Department at 606-436-2222.