ST. GEORGE — A 9-year-old Tennessee girl missing for more than a week was found Thursday in a rugged, mountainous section of Tennessee by two men who held her alleged abductor at gunpoint until police arrived.
Carlie Marie Trent appeared to be safe and was taken to the hospital to be checked out, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said at a news conference Thursday. Gary Simpson, 57, was charged with aggravated kidnapping and may face other charges.
An endangered child alert had been issued for Trent last week followed by an Amber Alert after she was removed from her Hawkins County school on May 4 by Simpson, her uncle-by-marriage, under false pretenses.
Simpson previously had custody of Trent and her younger sister up until recently, when they were returned to their biological father, James Trent. However, Simpson currently has no custodial rights to Carlie Trent, authorities said.
As part of the child abduction response protocol, Tennessee authorities had asked the public to look on their property, in their barns and on four-wheel trails for clues that the two were in the area.
“Two conscientious Hawkins County residents did just that,” Gwyn said during the conference.
Donnie Lawson, a farmer, and Roger Carpenter, a Baptist pastor, found Simpson and Carlie Trent in a remote area deep into their property, Gwyn said, along trails only accessible by a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Carpenter held Simpson at gunpoint while Lawson called 911, Gwyn said.
“These are two heroes who went on their property just to see if they were there,” Gwyn said. “The public is who rescued Carlie and without their assistance I wouldn’t be standing here tonight.”
Gwyn said the search for Simpson and Trent had always been focused on Hawkins County even though authorities had received numerous reports from witnesses who believed they had seen the two in other states.
Police were investigating a possible sighting in Utah Wednesday after a witness at Lin’s Marketplace in Hurricane reported seeing a man who matched Simpson’s description. Officers responded to the area to interview possible witnesses and to collect surveillance footage, later determining that the man wasn’t Simpson.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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