TBI: Two Hawkins Co. residents searched property, found Gary Simpson and Carlie Trent

Published: May. 12, 2016 at 11:36 AM EDT
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US Marshals confirm that Carlie Trent was found safe in Hawkins County. Gary Simpson is in custody and he will be held at the Hawkins County Jail.

The two were found on Highway 70 North at Gravely Valley Road in Eidson. They were not found at a campground.

Gary Simpson is charged with especially aggravated kidnapping of his 9-year-old niece, Carlie Trent. Authorities say he took Carlie out of school on false pretenses. He may face additional charges.

"Carlie is safe tonight because of an entire community pulling together and working with law enforcement to bring Carlie home," said Mark Gwyn, the director for TBI.

Who found them?

Two Hawkins County residents, Donnie Lawson and Stuart Franklin, found Carlie and Simpson deep in their property along trails only accessible by 4-wheelers. Both men spoke with Local 8 News about the rescue.

Gwyn said one man held Simpson at gunpoint while the other called 911.

"I think this is just two heroes that went onto the property just to see, by chance, could they be there, and they were," said Gwyn.

He said Carlie appeared to be ok, but medical professionals will examine her at a hospital.

Family reacts to news

Linda Simpson, the wife of Gary Simpson, said she has not heard from Gary Simpson yet. She does not know how soon it will be before she can see Carlie.

"I hoped this is the way it would end. I'm just thankful to the good Lord that it ended this way and [Carlie] didn't get hurt," said Linda Simpson.

She spoke with Carlie's father after the 9-year-old was found. She said he didn't know many details about how the two were found.

Brooke Hall, a cousin of Carlie, said the family was shocked in the alleged kidnapping and doesn't know why he would take her.

"I have felt terrible for the last week," said Hall.

Hall responded to rumors that Gary Simpson was trying to protect Carlie by taking her away.

"I honestly don't believe our juvenile officials in court would have allowed her father to have her if there was any problem whatsoever," said Hall.

Hall is one of the organizers of the search efforts. She said thousands of people volunteered to help.

Witness describes the arrest

Rhonda Bryant lives nearby where Carlie and Simpson were found. Bryant said she heard two four wheelers drive by her home. She said the drivers of the four wheelers were not law enforcement, but were neighbors conducting their own search.

Then the state, county and local law enforcement arrived. She said she lives about 200 yards from where they were found.

"I was excited because I knew in my heart they had found them," said Bryant.

She does not know at this point if Carlie and Simpson were found on her property.

"I have prayed for the child. I have worried about the child. She has been on my mind every day," said Bryant.

Bryant said she did not know the family personally.

The area is densely wooded and cellphone service is very limited. It is unclear if Simpson and Carlie were at the same site during the entire disappearance.

Josh DeVine with TBI said at a news conference on Thursday morning that agents were concerned about Simpson hurting Carlie as well as the conditions they were in. DeVine said agents interviewed all family and friends that know Carlie and Simpson. He said the information they learned about the history of Simpson has them "imminently concerned."

"I realize that's vague, but I just can't get into the specifics of what we've learned through those conversations," he said.

Simpson was placed on the TBI's Top 10 Most Wanted list after Carlie disappeared for more than a week.

"Let me be abundantly clear, he had no intention to help this girl. We have specific and credible information that Carlie is in imminent danger of seriously bodily harm or death. Trust me, anyone who may be harboring Gary Simpson will be prosecuted to the fullest, and I do mean fullest, extent of the law," said DeVine.

Before the disappearance, Simpson bought about $80 worth of groceries including, two loaves of bread, crackers, paper towels, peanut butter, toilet paper, desserts and soda.

"That's not exactly cooking dinner at home with the family. That's we're going on a camping trip, but again this is no innocent camping trip. This is a crime," said DeVine.

At one point, the reward for information in connection to this case exceeded $40,000.

What happened

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, Simpson went to Carlie's school and told school administrators that Carlie's father had been in a bad accident. Later in the day, the two were captured on surveillance cameras at a grocery store.

You can watch that video


Carlie's parents didn't realize she was missing until she didn't come home from school.

The next day, TBI upgraded an Endangered Child Alert for Carlie to an AMBER Alert.

Simpson is Carlie's non-custodial uncle. Police issued a warrant for his arrest on a kidnapping charge.

Simpson previously had custody of Carlie, but a judge recently transferred custody to Carlie's biological father. School administrators were not notified, so that is how Simpson was able to take Carlie out of school.

Surveillance cameras at Walmart show Simpson buying items associated with camping on Wednesday.

According to reports, Carlie Trent is out of the hospital and at home Friday afternoon.

This video is also available