Van linked to missing Tennessee girl possibly spotted in southern Illinois

Posted at 2:20 PM, May 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-12 16:20:31-04

MOUNT VERNON, IL – The vehicle wanted in connection to a missing 9-year-old Tennessee girl may have been spotted southern Illinois. Someone sent a tip to police saying they saw the 2002 white conversion van that police believe Gary Simpson is driving.

The Mount Vernon Police Department posted this Facebook status update a few hours ago:

There has been a report of this vehicle in the Jefferson / Washington County area. The vehicle is a white 2002 Dodge Conversion Van with Tennessee Plates of 173GPS. If you see this vehicle please dial 911 immediately.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports there have been possible sightings of Carlie Trent in 11 states, but no real evidence about her location. TBI has received more than 1,500 tips in the search for 9-year-old Carlie Trent.

The Rogersville girl was picked up from school last week by her uncle, Gary Simpson, who does not have custodial rights. She has not been seen since then.

The TBI said they believe Carlie is in “imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.”

An Endangered Child Alert was issued for Carlie on the day she went missing, which was upgraded to an Amber Alert the next day.

The TBI has investigated tips from over 19 states but said there have been no credible sightings of Carlie or her uncle.

Authorities in Cooper County, MO, said residents there spotted a van matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle, but that tip was later determined to be false.

“This is a 9-year-old girl on the line, and you better believe we are doing anything and everything to bring this girl home,” said TBI spokesman Josh DeVine.

Simpson picked up Carlie from school on Wednesday afternoon. According to the TBI, Simpson told school officials that she would be absent on Thursday but would be back on Friday.

Simpson previously had custody of Carlie, but custodial rights were recently awarded to her father. The school system had not been updated on the change of custody, which is why Simpson was allowed to pick her up from school.

Authorities believe Carlie and Simpson may be in an isolated area. The TBI is asking anyone Rogersville area who owns large amounts of land to check their properties to see if Carlie and her uncle are camping there.

Officials said planes will search two secluded areas in Rogersville that are hard to reach. The TBI said Simpson knows the area and could still be there.

The TBI said Simpson is not an experienced criminal and could be low on money. He is unemployed and did not stockpile any cash, so investigators said he may have nowhere to go.

Carlie is 4’8″, weighs 75 pounds and has blonde hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing a black and gray tank top shirt with blue jeans.

Simpson is 5’10”, weighs 157 pounds and is balding with brown hair and eyes. He was last seen wearing a brown cap, a dark-colored shirt and jeans.

If the pair is traveling, they may be in a white 2002 Dodge van with Tennessee license plate 173GPS.

Anyone who spots Carlie, her uncle or the van is urged to call 911 first to allow local enforcement to reach the scene. Anyone with information they believe can assist in this case is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

The United States Marshals Service has offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of Simpson and the safe recovery of Carlie. Carlie’s pediatrician has indicated to TBI he will offer $10,000 in reward money for information leading to her safe recovery. Anyone interested in contributing to the reward effort is asked to call 423-923-9100.