Two men became heroes when they found a missing 9-year-old girl in a remote section of east Tennessee.
They held Carlie Marie Trent’s suspected captor at gunpoint Thursday until authorities arrived, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said.
The little girl was holding a teddy bear, CNN affiliate WATE-TV in Knoxville reported.
“These are two heroes who went on their property just to see if they were there,” Gwyn said Thursday night. “The public is who rescued Carlie and without their assistance I wouldn’t be standing here tonight.”
The two men were part of a group of four who had been looking for the girl for three days, according to Roger Carpenter, a minister who was part of the search party but was not at the site where the girl was found.
“My dad called me and said someone shouted, ‘We got the girl’ and the good Lord above me told me it was my two buddies,” Carpenter told WATE.
He described the search as “a lot of hitting the bushes, digging, praying, a lot of heartache, a lot of disappointment.”
But he said, “Thank God it turned out good.”
Carlie went missing May 4 after her uncle by marriage, Gary Simpson, removed her without permission from her school in Rogersville, the TBI said. Rogersville is in the mountains of east Tennessee, and authorities thought that’s where they’d find the two, perhaps camping.
The TBI asked the public to look in their barns and on their property and four-wheel trails for clues.
That’s what Carpenter, Stewart Franklin, Donnie Lawson and another man were doing at the property Thursday, Gwyn said.
Franklin and Lawson came across Carlie and Simpson in a rugged area of Hawkins County, where Rogersville is the county seat, Gwyn said. Franklin held a gun on Simpson, while Lawson called 911, he said. Authorities initially said Carpenter was one of the two who found the girl.
An intensive search had been underway for Carlie, with authorities earlier saying the child might have been in “imminent danger.”
An Amber Alert had been issued, and the FBI made the disappearance the case of the week on its website. Officials said Simpson at one point had custody of the girl, but her father recently regained custody and the uncle had no custodial rights at the time she disappeared.
Carlie appeared to be safe but was taken to a hospital to be checked out, Gwyn said.
Simpson, 57, was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and may face other charges. He’s being held in the Hawkins County Jail.
TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said Simpson bought clothing and camping equipment before going to the school, so investigators thought they might have been staying in the woods or at a campground.
People had reported seeing Carlie as far away as Idaho, but the search had always been focused on Hawkins County, Gwyn said.
“Our intelligence was telling us that, our experience was telling us that,” he said.
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger and Keith Allen contributed to this report.