9-Year-Old Carlie Trent Found Safe by Citizens Who Hold Uncle at Gunpoint Until Authorities Arrive
Nine-year-old Carlie Trent has been found safe and the uncle accused of kidnapping her is now in police custody, according to authorities.
"It's confirmed! Carlie Trent is safe! Gary Simpson is in custody," the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted on Thursday afternoon.
The girl and her uncle were found in a remote, rural area in Hawkins County, said TBI director Mark Gwyn.
Two property owners - Roger Carpenter and Donnie Lawson - discovered the girl and her uncle in dense woods, Gwyn said.
Carpenter told InsideEdition.com Thursday night, "We've been in the woods every day, searching. It was a blessing we found her. We thank God."
Carlie, he said, "seemed fine. She was playing with a teddy bear." He declined to give further details of the incident.
Carpenter held Simpson at gunpoint while Lawson called 911, Gwyn said.
The two men had been riding ATVs, surveying their land for any sign of the girl, as local authorities had encouraged residents to do. Gwyn called the men heroes.
“These are just two heroes who went on their property just to see if by chance could they be there and they were,” he said. “We are sure the family of Carlie Trent sends their heartfelt thanks for the actions that were taken today,” he said.
"Thank God, she was rescued safe," Gwyn added.
Carlie was undergoing medical evaluations at a local hospital, he said. There were no outward signs of harm, he said. He would not discuss Simpson's motive in allegedly kidnapping his niece.
They were found off Highway 70 North in Surgoinsville, which is only 11 miles from Carlie's Rogersville elementary school, where she was picked up by Simpson eight days ago.
“I was still positive these guys were going to find her because they were relentless in their search,” JamesTrent, Carlie's father, told a local newspaper. “It was getting worse and days were passing, but I still had confidence she was coming home. When I get to see her I’ll be 100%.”
Simpson is being held in Hawkins County Jail.
The news comes just hours after Simpson was added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Top 10 Most Wanted list. The TBI said that Simpson was wanted for especially aggravated kidnapping and a reward of $40,000 was offered for information leading to her return.
Simpson, 57, took Carlie from her 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, 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 before they were found.
While the uncle and his wife once had custody of Carlie and her 7-year-old sister, authorities had stressed that the case is not a simple custody dispute.
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.