Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
May 11, 2016 02:05 PM

The mother of missing Tennessee 9-year old Carlie Trent says she “always had a bad feeling” about Gary Simpson, the 57-year-old man who allegedly kidnapped her daughter last week.

On May 4, Simpson, Carlie’s uncle by marriage who, along with his wife, had once had custody of Carlie, picked her up from her Rogersville elementary school. Simpson and Carlie did not return home later that afternoon and the following day an Amber Alert was issued in Tennessee.

Shannon Trent tells PEOPLE she has not had custody of Carlie or her 7-year-old sister for about two years, saying, “I just recently got my life straight and I just wish I could at least see my girls again.”

When she heard that her daughter had been allegedly kidnapped by Simpson, she was shocked by the news – but not as much by the suspect.

“I’ve always had a gut feeling,” Trent tells PEOPLE. “I’ve always had a bad feeling about Gary [and] I should have stuck with my gut.”

Trent tells PEOPLE that Simpson has been part of the family for 34 years and was given custody of his nieces when Carlie’s father, James, was having what she describes as “problems.” At the time of Carlie’s disappearance, James had custody of her.

“He was a very trusted family member. If we had known anything like this, we would have never let our kids around him,” Trent says.

Gary Simpson
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

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Josh DeVine of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tells PEOPLE that in order to pick up Carlie, Simpson allegedly told teachers that James had been in a car accident and he was sent to get her. But Devine says this was a lie and that Simpson had no authority to pick Carlie up.

On Tuesday, authorities said that before Simpson allegedly kidnapped his niece, he bought girls underwear, a bikini, clothing, lipstick, nail polish, blankets and a child’s camping chair at a local WalMart.

“It made me sick to my stomach. I mean, I almost got sick,” Trent says of the items Simpson allegedly purchased. “I don’t know what he’s done to her. I don’t think he would hurt her, but if he’s capable of kidnapping a child he’s capable of anything.”

Authorities say the items purchased by Simpson confirm their suspicion that he allegedly brought Carlie to a remote area or campground. Trent says she believes the alleged kidnapping was premeditated.

“And just to think he’s had this planned for a long time,” Trent says. “I think he’s got a lair or something or some sort of shelter.”

After the alleged kidnapping, Simpson brought Carlie to a local grocery store and bought non-perishable food items and toiletries, officials said. In a surveillance video from a Save-A-Lot, Carlie doesn’t appear to be distressed, officials said. However there is still concern for her safety.

“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 a press conference on Tuesday.

Carlie Trent with her younger sister
Courtesy Shannon Trent
Katie, Shannon and Carlie Trent
Courtesy Shannon Trent

Mother: ‘We Will Find Her’

Trent says she and her family will not stop looking for their daughter. She urges Simpson to come forward, telling PEOPLE, “Gary, think about what you are doing right now – it’s just crazy, it’s just insane. You’re not going to away with this. We will find her – we have to find her.”

She adds, “And Carlie, Mommy and Daddy are searching high and low and doing everything we can do to save you.”

James Trent told Inside Edition he believes Simpson has an obsession with his daughter.

“I personally think that for some reason, he’s developed this obsession with Carlie,” he said. “I wonder what he’s trying to put in her head, what kind of story he’s told her [about] why he’s doing what he’s doing.”

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

On Tuesday, Missouri authorities issued an Amber Alert after it was believed Simpson was spotted near Otterville. However, hours later, authorities announced the alert was a false alarm.

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.

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