Sheriff outlines process, responsibilities after local woman’s body pulled from Neches River

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, July 11, 2023

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Hardin County Sheriff’s Office is now handling the investigation into the death of a Vidor woman whose body was recovered after she reportedly failed to surface while swimming in the Neches River over the weekend.

Hardin County Sheriff Mark L. Davis said the investigation is two-phase. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department handled the first phase, which is recovery of the body. From there the investigation is passed off to the lead law enforcement agency for a review of the circumstances to see if there is anything of foul play.

In this case, the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office is the lead agency because of where the body was found.

Summer Clark, 44, of Vidor went missing in the waterway while swimming with her fiancé, Christopher Moore. The two had been boating and decided to take a swim in the Neches River on Saturday. Search crews recovered Clark’s body Sunday at approximately 7:20 p.m. in the Neches River near the location where she was reported missing.

Davis said they pulled their boat onto the bank of the Neches River in Hardin County.

Davis said an autopsy was ordered by Jasper County Justice of the Peace Steve Conner.

“Once that information comes back, it will aid us in our discovery process,” Davis said of the autopsy results.

The preliminary autopsy results could be ready in seven to 10 days, while the full autopsy would take up to 45 days.

Davis said authorities will speak with witnesses and others and look at the investigation from a 1,000-feet view, bringing it in tighter and tighter to see if there was foul play or if it was a tragic accident.

Clark’s body was taken to the Jefferson County Morgue.

“Our job is to step back and look, and the autopsy, that will tell us the physical,” Davis said.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Ryan Hall said the area Clark diapered is just north of the Village Creek area.

Officials say the two had been boating and decided to take a swim in the Neches River.

“He reported that the two of them had been boating along the Neches River and had stopped at a sandbar just north of the mouth of Village Creek to swim. As they were swimming, he saw that Clark had ventured farther out into the channel where the current was very strong. He stated that he saw her go under and never resurface,” according to a news release.

Texas Game Wardens from Hardin, Jefferson, and Jasper Counties immediately responded to the scene and took control of the search that evening.

The search resumed at sunrise on Sunday, and the Wardens were joined by personnel from multiple agencies, including the U.S. National Park Service, Silsbee Fire Department, Evadale Fire Department and Jasper County Emergency Management, as well as several local volunteers.

— Written by Mary Meaux