A judge on Monday approved a defense request for an uncle in Tennessee accused of kidnapping his 9-year-old niece to submit to a mental evaluation.
Search teams hunted for the pair for more than a week before two men found them in the back country of northeastern Tennessee on May 12, holding Simpson at gunpoint until police arrived, authorities said.
Simpson, 57, took Carlie Marie Trent out of school under false pretenses, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said.
“I think he’s out of reality, just didn’t understand, don’t know, don’t think he had any intention of hurting the kid because he’s helped take care, raise her,” Simpson’s aunt Lois Salyers told WAVY.
The mental evaluation delays a preliminary hearing in the case. Simpson was charged with felony aggravated kidnapping and violation of custodial interference.
Gwyn said there were no indications that Carlie was harmed. The judge set bond last week at $1 million.
Simpson is married to the sister of Carlie's father. The families live close to one another in rural Hawkins County. The uncle and his wife had custody of Carlie and her little sister while their father was jailed on drug charges, but the girls went back to live with their father in 2015, TBI spokesman TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said earlier Thursday. Investigators had not been able to find any work history for Simpson.
Authorities issued the call to check remote areas or campgrounds based on surveillance video showing Simpson stocking up on items from an area Wal-Mart including a bikini, two tubes of colored lip gloss, nail polish, an outdoor chair and a child's nightgown.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.