ROGERSVILLE — The father of 9-year-old Carlie Marie Trent told the Times-News Thursday he never imagined his brother-in-law Gary Simpson was capable of kidnapping.
But more than 24 hours after Simpson picked Carlie up from her school in Rogersville under false pretenses, James Trent said he fears Simpson may have “terrible plans in mind.”
Neither Simpson nor Carlie Trent have been seen since they left Hawkins Elementary School Wednesday afternoon.
Simpson, 57, is the husband of James Trent’s sister, and until Wednesday he was considered a trusted member of the family.
So much so that Simpson is on a list of people approved to pick up Carlie from school, something he has done many times in the past.
Around 1:25 p.m. Wednesday, Simpson went to Hawkins Elementary School in Rogersville and told school officials that Carlie’s father had been in a terrible accident. Simpson said he needed to take Carlie to see her dad, and she probably wouldn’t be back to school the next day.
When Carlie didn’t get off the school bus Wednesday afternoon, her father, who is a single parent, called police.
Trent told the Times-News Thursday that the incident completely took him by surprise, and he can’t imagine where Simpson has taken Carlie.
“He don’t really go anywhere and he don’t really know anybody except for his close family,” Trent said. “He was always a close family member too. He came to the school and picked her up. I had his name listed on the chart as someone to pick her up. He’s picked my kids up on several occasions and taken them to appointments I couldn’t get to because of work. (He was) a very trusted member of the family.”
Trent added, “He sees those kids every single day. I just don’t know what would possess him to do such a thing except just evil.”
Simpson and Trent live beside each other on Pine Mountain Road in a rural area of Hawkins County far north of Rogersville called Pressmen’s Home.
Simpson has been married to Trent’s sister for more than 30 years, and he is unemployed and cares for their disabled adult son.
Trent, Carlie and another daughter age 7 live next door.
Trent said Simpson has always been good to his children, and there was no hint that he is capable of hurting them.
“He’s just as caring to those girls as you could ask anybody in the world to be,” Trent said.
He added, “That’s what’s really scary about it, for it to be at the point he just grabs her and takes off with her. You have to think he’s got terrible plans in mind. There’s no way I would have ever seen him doing something like that, or I’d have most certainly separated myself and them girls from him a long time ago.”
If Trent could speak to Simpson, he’d ask him to let Carlie go.
“Bring her home,” Trent said. “Bring her somewhere. Drop her off someplace. Anything. Just let her go. He’ll have to deal with this thing in due time, but my goodness, for God’s sake let her go.”
As for Carlie, Trent said he is concerned that Simpson told her the same story he told the school — that he is badly hurt or worse — and that she believes it.
“I’d tell her whatever he’s telling her is false,” he said. “When he went to the school he told them that I was in a major car wreck and I was in terrible condition, and that he had to take her to see me and she wouldn’t be back in school for the next day or two. I saw that video at the school with my own two eyes, and I’d say he probably pushed that story on to her too. She’s liable to think I’m dead or who knows what.”
Trent added, “If Carlie just so happened to see (this article), I love her and I’ll never stop looking for her.”
Carlie was placed on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Endangered Child Alert around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday, an Amber Alert was issued for Carlie Marie Trent by the TBI, and a warrant was issued for Gary Simpson for kidnapping.
Simpson has no criminal history. He has lived in a rural area near Rogersville his entire life.
Simpson and his wife have helped raise Carlie and her sister, and at one point the couple had temporary custody.
Family members reportedly told police there has never been any indication of abuse of any sort on the part of Simpson toward either child.
Carlie is 4 feet 8 inches tall, weighs 75 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
She was last seen wearing a black and gray tank top with blue jeans.
Simpson is 57, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 157 pounds.
He is balding and has brown hair and eyes.
He was last seen wearing a brown cap, dark colored shirt and jeans.
He was last seen driving a white 2002 Dodge conversion van with Tennessee registration 173GPS. The van has a dark stripe down the middle with light gold running boards and paint is chipping off the hood.
Police said Thursday morning they have no idea where Simpson and Carlie are. Attempts to locate him using his phone have been unsuccessful.
If you have seen Carlie, Simpson or his vehicle, please call the Rogersville Police Department at (423) 272-7555 or the TBI at (800) TBI-FIND.