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'She is 10-4': Carlie rescued, Simpson arrested in remote area near Clinch Mountain

Jeff Bobo • Updated May 12, 2016 at 5:45 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The news everyone was hoping to hear about missing 9-year-old Carlie Marie Trent blared over Hawkins County police radios late Thursday afternoon.

“She is 10-4. She is 10-4.”

Moments later there was an audible cheer from Hawkins County Central Dispatch as the arrest of Carlie’s accused abductor, 57-year-old Gary Simpson, was announced over the air.

The eight-day search for Carlie and Simpson came to an end at about 4:45 p.m. Thursday in a remote area off Gravely Valley Road near the Hancock County line.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said two Hawkins County residents were checking property owned by one of them when they came upon Simpson and Carlie deep in the woods off Debord Road.

The pair were identified by Gwyn as Donnie Lawson and Stewart Franklin.

“Donnie Lawson and Stewart Franklin found Gary Simpson and Carlie Trent deep into their property along trails only accessible by four-wheel drive,” Gwyn said. “One man held Gary Simpson at gunpoint while the other called 911 and rescued Carlie. We are sure that the family of Carlie Trent sends its heartfelt thanks for their actions today.”

The TBI had been asking members of the public to check their property, their outbuildings, their barns and trails. It was that request that led to Carlie’s rescue.

“You’ve got to keep the public involved, and that’s what we were trying to do,” Gwyn said. “Once again, I think it worked. The public is who rescued Carlie.”

Gwyn added, “We had asked all residents to go on their properties to see what they could see. This is just two heroes that went on the property to see by chance could they be there, and they were. I think this is a clear message that we should send to the public — that we’ve got to have your help in these type of cases.”

Gwyn said Franklin held Simpson at gunpoint while Lawson called 911 and rescued Carlie.

Carlie was holding a teddy bear when she was rescued.

Authorities said she appeared to be in good health, but she was being transported to a hospital for a precautionary examination.

The white 2002 Dodge conversion van that had been sought by police and the public since Carlie went missing was located in close proximity to the campsite.

The vehicle has been impounded and transported to the TBI crime lab in Knoxville for analysis.

Upon hearing the news of Carlie’s rescue, her father, James Trent, told the Times-News he never gave up hope.

“I was still positive these guys were going to find her because they were relentless in their search,” Trent said. “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 percent.”

On Wednesday, May 4, at about 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.

Simpson has been charged with especially aggravated kidnapping — a Class A felony punishable by 15-25 years.

Additional charges are pending investigation.

“In the coming days and weeks, we will work with District Attorney Dan Armstrong to ensure that Gary Simpson is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Gwyn said. Gary Simpson is charged with especially aggravated kidnapping, but officers and agents will pursue additional charges if warranted.”

There’s still no known motive for the kidnapping, but Simpson was being interviewed into the evening Thursday to determine what has gone on over the past eight days.

Gwyn added, “We won’t know the full extent of charges until some examinations and interviews are completed. Our first priority was to get Carlie examined by proper medical staff, and then go from there. ... Thank God she was rescued safe. We’ll just hope that all of the medical examinations turn out positive.”

Gwyn expressed gratitude to the Rogersville Police Department, Hawkins County Sheriff's Office, the United States Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Highway Patrol for their assistance in this case.

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