Hawkins schools, community, going purple in support of Carlie

Jeff Bobo • Updated May 9, 2016 at 1:01 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins Elementary School is “going purple” Tuesday in support of missing 9-year-old Carlie Marie Trent, whose favorite color is purple.

All of Carlie’s classmates and school mates are still praying that she’ll be home by Tuesday to see it.

Throughout Monday the search for Carlie continued.

She was picked up at Hawkins Elementary Wednesday around 1:25 p.m. by her uncle-by-marriage Gary Simpson, who was on the list of people approved to take her from school.

A short time later the two were spotted on video surveillance at a Rogersville grocery store Wednesday afternoon, and haven’t been seen since.

As of Monday authorities were asking the public to remain vigilant and continue calling nay and all potential leads as to Carlie’s whereabouts as the search entered its sixth day.

On Thursday morning the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert for Carlie.

Local state and federal authorities continued the search throughout the weekend, but as of Monday morning there had been no credible sighting.

One tip in particular received substantial coverage on social media

Police were notified Sunday that someone had spotted Simpson’s van on Rt. 31 north of Mooresburg near the Hancock County line, even going so far as to say they had identified the license plate number (173-GPS).

They followed up on the tip to no avail, and upon further questioning learned that the tipster hadn’t actually seen the license plate number as previously reported.

Police followed up on dozens of similar reports of white vans over the weekend, and will continue to pursue all leads. 

If you have seen the Carlie, Simpson, or Simpson’s van, please call the Rogersville Police Department at 423-272-7555 or TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.

As police continue the search for Carlie and Simpson, teachers and administrators at her school are doing their best to help the student population at Hawkins Elementary understand what’s going on.

Principal Barry Bellamy told the Times-News Monday that students have reacted well , and will be showing their support for Carlie Tuesday by wearing Carlie’s favorite color, purple, and by placing purple ribbons on their clothes and around campus.

Extra counselors have been made available for the school, but as of yet they haven’t been needed.

Bellamy said school staff have tried to be honest with students and tell them what is known about Carlie’s situation — without delving into hypothetical scenarios that wouldn’t be appropriate for children.

“The children have done surprisingly well. We just try to be honest with them,” Bellamy said. “We tell them what we know. We’ve not tried to withhold anything. Probably the most difficult class has been Ms. Rhoton’s class, the class that Carlie was in. I just can’t say enough about her (Rhoton). She has done a fantastic job of working with her students and keeping them informed.”

Bellamy added, “If they’ve asked a question, we’ve told them the truth. The uncle signed her out, and as far as we knew, he had every right to do so. We told them (students) we don’t know where they are. We don’t know why he did this. We’ve just tried to be honest. Of course we’ve not gotten into what could happen, but we’ve tried to be as honest with the children as possible.”

Bellamy praised the teachers and staff throughout his school for helping maintain a sense of normalcy in the midst of so much such a distressing time. 

Bellamy has been either a principal or assistant principal for the past 21 years, and he said this is by far the worst situation he’s had to deal with at a school.

He added, “Short of a school shooting or something like that I can think of nothing worse than this. You’re just so concerned about this child because you don’t know what’s going on.”

Carlie’s favorite color is purple, so on Tuesday the entire school population is encouraged to wear purple. The school has given them all purple ribbons, and they’re going to wear those the rest of the week.

Several Rogersville businesses are helping with this effort including Martins Greenhouse which is donating some purple flowers.

Stan’s Sign Shack is contributing a sign the school will be posting in support of Carlie.

The Buds and Blooms store contributed the purple ribbons.

“Come by the school tomorrow, there should be plenty of purple,” Bellamy said.

That goes for all Hawkins County Schools, as well as the independent K-8 Rogersville City School. The city of Rogersville also expressed its support for Carlie, placign purple ribbons on light poles downtown.

Hawkins County director of schools Steve Starnes said that all students, faculty and staff throughout the county are encouraged to wear purple Tuesday to express their support for Carlie and their hope that she will soon be returned home unharmed.

Related stories & video: 

Carlie's pediatrician puts up $10,000 reward for her safe return

Amber Alert issued for Hawkins girl taken from school Wednesday afternoon

Video shows suspect in kidnapping of 9-year-old girl buying camping gear

Father expresses fears for missing 9-year-old Hawkins girl taken from school

James Trent, father of missing 9-year-old Carlie Marie Trent, spoke in depth with the Times-News Thursday about his daughter, and his brother-in-law Gary Simpson who allegedly kidnapped her, and his fears that Simpson has "terrible plans in mind."



Carlie Trent's pediatrician Dr. Chris Calendine talks about the $10,000 reward he issued for Carlie's safe return. Video shows Carlie and Gary Simpson at the Rogersville Save-A-Lot store shortly after Simpson picked her up from school 5-4-16.

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