"We believe this girl to be in imminent danger," Josh DeVine of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said

By Harriet Sokmensuer
Updated May 10, 2016 02:40 PM
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

The Tennessee man who allegedly kidnapped his 9-year-old niece six days ago bought girls clothing and cosmetic items as well as camping gear at a Walmart just hours before the alleged kidnapping, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced at a Tuesday press conference.

Gary Simpson, 57, who is Carlie Trent’s uncle by marriage, bought girls underwear, a bikini, clothing, lipstick, nail polish, blankets and a child camping chair before picking up Carlie up from a Rogersville elementary school on May 4. The pair has not been seen since, and authorities say the items purchased by Simpson confirm their suspicion that he allegedly brought Carlie to a remote area or campground.

“[Simpson] intended to essentially go out of sight,” Josh DeVine of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said at the press conference.

Simpson, 57, previously had custody of Carlie and her younger sister up until recently, when they were returned to their biological father, James Trent, DeVine tells PEOPLE.

Simpson allegedly told teachers at the school that Carlie’s dad had been in a car accident and he was sent to get her. DeVine says this was a lie and Simpson had no authority to pick up Carlie that afternoon.

The motive for the alleged kidnapping is still unknown, DeVine tells PEOPLE.

“We believe this girl to be in imminent danger. As the days go, our concern for [Carlie’s] well-being only grows,” DeVine said at the press conference.

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After the alleged kidnapping, Simpson brought Carlie to a local grocery store and bought non-perishable food items and toiletries, officials said. In a newly released surveillance video from a Save-A-Lot, Carlie doesn’t appear to be distressed, officials said.

Devine tells PEOPLE: “At the end of the day she did have a relationship with her uncle – she lived with him for sometime – so there’s reason to believe that she trusted him to some extent.”

Father: ‘I Want Her to Know She’s Loved’

James Trent told Dateline that he has no choice but to stay positive.

“I have to be strong for my other daughter and for Carlie,” Trent said. “But as the days keep passing, it’s getting harder.”

“There are so many places he could be,” James added. “I don’t know what story he’s told her, because there is no doubt she wants to be home. This whole thing has puzzled our whole family because everything about that morning was normal.”

He added, “I want her to know that she’s loved. That she shouldn’t believe whatever he’s telling her. She should get out, run, scream, do whatever she has to do to get away, because there are so many people looking for her. We’ll never give up.”

Simpson was last seen driving a white 2002 Dodge Conversion Van with Tennessee registration number 173GPS.

DeVine said that the TBI has received more than 500 tips, however, there have not been any confirmed sightings of the van.

“Bring Carlie home,” DeVine urged Simpson at the press conference. “Do the right thing. Bring this child home.”

Authorities urge anyone living in the area or surrounding communities to form their own search parties and canvas their properties. It is unconfirmed whether Carlie and Simpson are still in Tennessee.

Carlie is described as 4’8″ tall, weighing about 75 lbs. with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing a black and gray tank top with blue jeans. Simpson was last seen wearing a brown cap with a dark colored shirt and blue jeans.

Anyone with information regarding Carlie’s or Simpson’s whereabouts is urged to contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-TBI-FIND or the Rogersville Police Department at (423) 272-7555.