The man believed to have abducted his 9-year-old niece has been added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Top Ten Most Wanted list, officials said Thursday.
Gary Simpson, 57, took little Carlie Trent from her Rogersville elementary school on May 4 after telling officials her father had been seriously hurt in an accident, authorities said.
Surveillance footage apparently showed Simpson had stopped at an ATM before he bought girls’ clothes and makeup the morning before he allegedly snatched Carlie. The pair then went to a local grocery store, where Simpson bought $80 worth of non-perishable goods and paper products “consistent with camping or travel,” investigators said.
“Simpson has no custodial rights to Carlie, and the TBI believes that Carlie is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death,” the bureau said in a news release.
While the uncle by marriage once had joint custody with his wife of Carlie and her 7-year-old sister, authorities stressed that the case is not a simple custody dispute.
“When we say this child is in danger we absolutely mean it,” TBI spokesman Josh DeVine told reporters Wednesday.
As a former guardian, Simpson had previously been authorized to remove Carlie from school. The school had not yet been notified that the guardianship had changed, according to reports.
The reward for information in connection to the case has reached $40,000 and while investigators have received more than 1,700 tips from at least 19 states, there has yet to be a credible sighting of the little girl, her uncle or the white 2002 Dodge Conversion Van in which they were traveling.
“Though their whereabouts are currently unknown, investigative efforts suggest they may be out of public view and in an isolated area, such as a campground or park,” the TBI said.
Authorities on Thursday also released additional footage of Carlie pictured at happier times.
“A nine-year-old, just being a nine-year-old,” the TBI wrote on the video of Carlie, who talks and waves to the camera as she laughs and smiles.
“Hi! I’m Carlie Marie Trent,” she says before jumping around and running outside to play with a dog.
A massive search has been organized to take place on Saturday in Carlie’s hometown.
“Come when you can, the earlier the better!” organizers urged. “EVERYONE is encouraged to come out, even if you can’t search!”
The group plans to meet at 100 N. Church Street at 8 a.m. Guides will be available to anyone who comes between 8a.m. and 2 p.m., a flyer read.
Simpson is now wanted for especially aggravated kidnapping. The TBI notes that all people included on its Top 10 Most Wanted list should be considered armed and dangerous and should only be approached with extreme caution.
To date, 355 fugitives have been apprehended since the TBI's Top 10 Most Wanted program was created.