By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
ROGERSVILLE — Stuart Franklin, a member of East Rogersville Baptist Church here, and his friend Donnie Lawson are the “heroes” who rescued Carlie Trent, 9, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Trent was taken by her uncle from school on May 4 and found eight days later in a remote area of Hawkins County after a search which drew national attention.
The men were searching some property on ATVs when they found the girl and Gary Simpson, her uncle. They held the uncle at gunpoint while they called authorities. Trent seemed to be safe and unharmed, they reported. She attended a welcome home event in Rogersville on May 14.
Simpson, who has no custodial rights for Carlie, took her under false pretenses. An Amber Alert was issued by law enforcement on May 4.
Franklin told a local TV station, “I have two daughters, and when I’ve seen children abducted I’ve wanted to help and I felt like I wanted to help … this time. And I’m very thankful to the Lord that we were able to find her and get her back safely.”
He told Inside Edition, a TV newsmagazine, he and Lawson walked miles and miles each day checking cabins located on the property.
East Rogersville Baptist Church also was involved in the crisis though the Trent family has no association with the church. The church is located just one block from Carlie’s school and many members are teachers and students.
“Our heart was just broken and the longer this progressed, we just viewed it that something wasn’t right,” said Jason Royston, interim pastor.
East Rogersville held a prayer vigil on Friday, May 6, which drew many people in the community, including Carlie’s mother, Shannon Trent. The vigil was led by Royston.
Royston and the church’s worship leader, Doug Seymore, went to pray with James Trent, Carlie’s father, two days after she was taken. Royston said Trent was open and receptive to the visit.
The church helped distribute flyers through e-mail with help from the Holston Valley Baptist Association office. It provided a meal for the FBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshall, and local law enforcement agents who were working the case.
Finally, church members in services, groups which meet, and as individuals prayed for Trent’s rescue.
“The Lord loves her (Carlie) and the Lord loves that uncle. We wanted them both back safe. It was as good an ending to a story as we could have,” said Royston.