UPDATE: 4:47 p.m.
ROGERSVILLE (WATE) – Per our 8News affiliate WATE, the Hawkins County sheriff says Carlie Trent has been found and a suspect is in custody. Gary Simpson has been added to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Top Ten Most Wanted List. Simpson is wanted by the Rogersville Police Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for Especially Aggravated Kidnapping.
It’s been over a week since Carlie Trent was in school. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation asked the public to trust them that Carlie Trent is in danger.
The 9-year-old was removed from school Wednesday by her uncle by marriage, Gary Simpson, 57, under false pretenses, according to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Police say Gary Simpson told school officials Trent’s father was in a car accident and she may not be in school on Thursday as well. They said Gary Simpson has no custodial rights to Carlie Trent and their whereabouts are unknown. They were last seen in a white 2002 Dodge Conversion van with license plate 173-GPS.
A reward of at least $41,000 is being offered by several organizations and individuals for information leading to Carlie’s safe return. More than 1,700 tips have been called in so far from 19 states. TBI spokesman Josh DeVine says air searches were performed late Wednesday night into Thursday morning and he is asking people to double check their barns and property, not just for Carlie Trent and Gary Simpson, but for signs they may have been there.
DeVine said Wednesday morning he has heard some disturbing rumors on social media that if Simpson was trying to protect Carlie Trent. He said he has seen tweets that asked “If Simpson didn’t harm Carlie when he had custody, why would he do it now,” or that he was trying to “protect her” from something.
- Last seen driving a white 2002 Dodge Conversion van
- Tennessee License Plate 173-GPS
- Van has dark stripe down the middle with light gold running boards and paint chipping off the hood
- Anyone who sees the van should call 9-1-1
“If we have not been abundantly clear about this since the get-go, let me take the opportunity to say this as clearly as I possibly can. This was not an innocent camping trip, this was a crime,” said DeVine. “We realize Gary Simpson is Carlie Trent’s uncle by marriage, but we have specific, we have credible information that Carlie Trent is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death. That is why we issued an Amber Alert.”
DeVine said that is the reason Amber Alerts are issued very judiciously. He said they are reserved for the most serious of cases and this is one of them.
“We need the public to be on the lookout, we need the public to trust us. When we say this child is in danger, we’re not joking around. It is too serious. This is a 9-year-old girl on the line and you had better believe we’re doing anything and everything to bring this girl home.”
TBI said agents are sifting through over 1,200 leads. Law enforcement in 19 states are also working on possible sightings, but DeVine says so far they have had nothing credible.
A Missouri Amber Alert has been cancelled after sightings there proved to be false, but Amber Alert says Carlie Trent is still missing and the alert is still active in Tennessee.
TBI released new photos Tuesday of items purchased by Gary Simpson at a Walmart in Rogersville before picking-up Carlie Trent from school. They include a pink and purple zebra print blanket, a green shirt and black pants Gary Simpson purchased for himself, khaki pants and girl’s underwear purchase for Carlie Tent, pink and green nail polish, pink and purple lipstick, a pink child’s camp chair, a child’s night gown with purple stars and a black and pink bikini.
TBI also released higher quality video of Carlie Trent and Gary Simspon in the Save-A-Lot in Rogersville, their last known sighting.
“The reason we released that video from the Save-A-Lot is you can tell a lot by the way someone walks, so maybe they’re not in their vehicle anymore, maybe they are walking down the side of the road,” said DeVine. “We’re hoping that someone recognizes their gait and say I’ve seen someone walk that way. You can tell a lot by the way someone moves and by the way someone walks and we’re hoping that will be an additional piece of information that will help the public recognize them.”
DeVine has directly addressed Simpson in several of his press conferences, pleading with him to bring the girl home.
“This community wants you to do the right thing, Gary, and bring Carlie home,” he said. “There is nothing that has happened that can’t be corrected.”
- Mother of missing Rogersville girl in Amber Alert pleads for daughter’s return
- Community members search for Rogersville 9-year-old Carlie Trent
- ‘It just seemed funny,’ Rogersville cashier recounts last confirmed Amber Alert sighting
- TBI: National Amber Alert does not exist
U.S. Marshals and TBI have set up command posts in Rogersville. Tennessee Highway Patrol is also doing air searches on an as needed basis, but DeVine described using air searches as looking for “a needle in a haystack.”
While DeVine said TBI still has no specific information on where Gary Simpson and Carlie Trent could be, he said they set up in Rogersville because it is the epicenter of the search. Rogersville police issued warrants for kidnapping for Gary Simpson. DeVine said there are also some additional factors that TBI is not releasing in the search.
“Suffice it to say we’ve developed some information that only adds to our concern for this child’s well-being, but I can’t really get into particulars,” added DeVine. “There is no indication that Gary Simpson made any immediate threats, but we do know he was not truthful.”
Rogersville Police Chief Doug Nelson says Gary Simpson is on Carlie Trent’s pick-up list at school but they believe he lied to school staff on Wednesday, saying Carlie’s dad had been in a bad car accident.
“So they signed the child out to him and he also made a statement which I think is kind of a key element to this too ‘She probably won’t be back in school tomorrow either.’ Which is kind of a red flag to us,” said Chief Nelson.
DeVine said TBI is holding out hope that Carlie Trent is alive and is urging the community to do the same. He said the Amber Alert will remain in affect until the case comes to a conclusion.
“We have three outstanding Amber Alerts that have been in place for more than a year,” said Devine. “Once we escalate to an Amber Alert, we don’t deescalate until we resolve the situation.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Rogersville Police Department at (423) 272-7555 or 1-800-TBI-FIND. TBI said if anyone spots the van should call 911 directly.