ROGERSVILLE — Shortly after reports were issued last week that Carlie Trent had been taken from her school by 57-year-old Gary Simpson, his relatives began calling police with allegations that he is a dangerous pedophile.
Multiple law enforcement sources have confirmed to the Times-News on condition of anonymity that relatives of Simpson claimed he sexually abused them when they were children, but the incidents weren’t reported at the time because his family was afraid of him.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation hasn’t confirmed those reports.
For the first time, however, on Wednesday the TBI acknowledged that Carlie’s life is in danger.
TBI spokesman Josh Devine stated in a press briefing Wednesday, “During the course of the investigation, authorities have developed specific and credible information which leads law enforcement to believe the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.”
Devine said Carlie’s disappearance wasn’t an innocent camping trip. It was a crime.
Since the disappearance Wednesday of Carlie and Simpson, authorities have received more than 1,200 leads in 19 states, including hundreds in Hawkins County alone.
But as of Wednesday night, Devine said there are still no confirmed sightings.
Simpson and his wife had temporary custody of Carlie and her younger sister following the arrest in 2013 of the girls’ father, James Trent, on meth distribution charges.
Simpson has been married to Trent’s sister for more than 30 years.
James Trent pleaded guilty in Hawkins County Criminal Court in 2014 to delivery of meth and was sentenced to three years with 30 percent release eligibility.
Following his release from prison, James Trent was granted custody of his daughters again, although Simpson, who lives next door, continued to play a large role in their lives.
Police confirmed for the Times-News that Carlie’s mother, Shannon Trent, had lost custody of her children over issues with drug abuse and that she hadn’t actually seen her daughters for weeks prior to Carlie’s disappearance.
As a result, it was Simpson who was left to do things for the girls such as take them to doctors’ appointments while James Trent was working.
On Wednesday, May 4, around 1:25 p.m., Simpson picked up Carlie from Hawkins Elementary School, claiming that her father had been in a bad accident and that he was taking her to him.
Simpson told school officials Carlie probably wouldn’t be back the next day.
Prior to his arrival at school, Simpson had purchased several items at the Rogersville Walmart including panties, nightgowns, makeup, pants, a camping chair, and a blanket.
After he picked Carlie up, the two went to the Rogersville Save-A-Lot grocery store and purchased canned goods, several 12-packs of canned drinks, toilet paper, paper towels, and other items.
Police have determined that unless they had another source of supplies, Simpson and Carlie would have run out of food Tuesday or Wednesday.
Simpson has money in a checking account, as well as a food stamp card, and authorities are monitoring both.
Last Thursday morning, a Middle and East Tennessee Amber Alert was issued by the TBI on behalf of the Rogersville Police Department.
Since then, TBI agents and intelligence analysts have worked to coordinate and verify more than 1,200 tips, originating from 19 states: Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Idaho, Arkansas, California, Alabama, Washington, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Montana, and New York.
Though the whereabouts of Simpson and Carlie remain unknown, investigative efforts suggest they may be out of public view and in an isolated area, such as a campground or park.
The TBI continues to coordinate the search from its headquarters in Nashville and a command post stationed in Rogersville beside a U.S. Marshals Service command post near the Rogersville Police Department.
Ground searches, involving several partner agencies, continue, along with air searches by helicopter, performed by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which began late Sunday and will be ongoing on an as-needed basis as part of the overall search effort.
The Marshals Service has offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of Simpson and the safe recovery of Carlie.
Additionally, Dr. Chris Calendine, Carlie’s pediatrician, has indicated to the TBI he will offer $10,000 in reward money for information leading to her safe recovery.
Anyone interested in contributing to the reward effort can call (423) 923-9100.
Carlie is 4 feet eight inches tall, weighs 75 pounds and has blonde hair and blue eyes.
She was last seen wearing a black and grey tank top and blue jeans.
Simpson is a 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, a dark colored shirt and jeans.
He was last seen driving a white 2002 Dodge conversion van with Tennessee registration 173-GPS. The van has a dark stripe down the middle with light gold running boards and paint chipping off the hood.
Warrants have been issued for Simpson for kidnapping.
Anyone who has information that may prove helpful may contact the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Anyone who spots the van and can safely verify the license plate as 173-GPS should call 911.
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