On the extremely cold night of January 15th, 1994, 21-year-old, Joel Mark Wells, and some friends were hanging out at the Black Gold Shopping Center in Hazard, Kentucky. An argument broke out between them, and Mark decided it was best to just walk away from the situation.
Apparently, Mark walked down the road a little way to Burger King. Employees that were there at the time said they were locked up for the night and in the process of cleaning; when he began frantically banging on the doors. He gave them the impression that he was in distress, almost like someone could have been after him. They called the police, who arrived just a few minutes later…but Mark was gone.
Let me go a little in depth about what else had happened prior to Marks disappearance… A gas station attendant was murdered the night before, so people were terrified. I’ve read interviews with some of the employees who have expressed how they wished they had opened the doors, but they were simply too scared. I can’t say that I blame them.
It was reported that Mark was seen a short time later in the Walmart parking lot asking people for a ride as they exited the store. As far as I know, this was the last time he was seen. I’m not certain of the timeline since no approximations have been given on any of the information I’ve found pertaining to this case.
After he was reported missing, police brought out dogs to see if they could possibly track down his movements. They picked up on his scent near the river behind city hall, but a search of the water and land came back with nothing.
It looks extremely possible that Mark could have walked across the road and down the hill. Maybe it’s possible he fell into the river since it was dark…but you would think there would have been some actual evidence found during the police search.
I suppose it’s also possible that he fell in, managed to get out, but due to the extreme cold of the night, he succumbed to hypothermia, but this area is pretty frequently traveled. As well as searched soon after he vanished. I don’t see how his body could have been overlooked, especially for such a long time.
I’ve read some theories that maybe Mark saw something that night, in regards to the gas station attendant who was murdered, and he was killed because he was a witness. Police investigated that theory but said there was no evidence to back up any connection. This is hard for me to even comment on since I can’t find any mention of times.
What did Mark argue with his friends about? Why did he appear to be in such a panic when he was seen at Burger King, but then seemingly calm whenever he was trying to get a ride in the Walmart parking lot? Why would he have reason to be on the river bank? Is it possible that whoever he argued with came back to find him, only to murder him and hide his body?
If you know anything that could help this family, please contact the Hazard Police Department at 606-436-2222.
North American Missing Persons Network
Hazard Police Department
01/21/2021 – no updates available.