Left and Center: Trudy circa, 1996
Right: Age Progressed to age 30
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: August 21, 1996
Missing From: Moline, Scott County, Illinois
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: September 4, 1984
Age: 11 years old
Height and Weight: 4’8″ and 75 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Brown hair, Blue eyes, Trudy has a scar on her neck and on her chest, she also has pierced ears and was described as being of average build at the time of her 1996 abduction and her hair was long at the time
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A shirt, a pair of black bicycle stretch shorts, a pair of white socks, blue Nike deck shoes with white shoe laces
NCMEC Number: 822441
Details of Disappearance
Trudy was last seen in Moline, Illinois on August 21st 1996. On the morning of her disappearance, her father, Dennis Appleby, left for work at 9:00 am. At some point between 9:30 am and 10:30 am, Trudy was observed getting into an unidentified vehicle driven by a still unknown male in the driveway of her home. She was seen doing this by one of her neighbors.
The man was described as being Caucasian and appeared to be in his 20s in 1996. He had curly brown or black hair which was worn long to his shoulders and he was wearing a baseball cap on his head at the time. Trudy was never seen or heard from again after this. Dennis reported her disappearance when he arrived home from work to find her gone.
Investigators initially treated Trudys case as that of a runaway but this theory has now been discounted. Trudy brought a towel and a bathing suit with her when she disappeared. She also left behind $200 at home, Dennis stated she was saving the money up for an upcoming vacation they were taking.
She is now presumed to have been abducted and the man she was seen getting into the car with is the primary suspect in her abduction. His identity has not been established nor confirmed. The car the abductor was driving is described as being a silver or gray four-door box styled vehicle. It was described as being similar to a Chevrolet Celebrity.
Trudys family believes she knew her abductor personally. Her family’s residence was located off the main road and was not visible from the street. Extensive searches of the area turned up no sign of Trudy. While her family has held out hope for her return, investigators have noted it’s unlikely Trudy is still alive in recent times.
For many years, investigators had no suspects in Trudys abduction. In August of 2017, over 20 years after Trudy disappeared, investigators named William “Ed” Smith as the primary suspect in her abduction. Smith knew Trudy at the time of her 1996 disappearance since he was friends with her father.
Investigators have stated evidence uncovered in the investigation shows that Trudy was with Smith on the day of her abduction. A witness, David Whipple, claimed he saw Smith with Appleby near his residence in the late morning hours. According to Whipple, he saw Smith in a late model Chevrolet 4 door near his own residence on Campbells Island. Whipple said he observed Trudy in the passenger seat of the car and that he saw Smith retrieve some life jackets and leave. Smith was reportedly seen that afternoon but was alone and didn’t have Trudy with him at the time.
Whipple claimed he didn’t come forward with this information sooner because Smith threatened him about it. The car that Smith was driving was scrapped within a week of Trudys disappearance. Dennis always believed Smith was somehow involved in Trudys disappearance. He stated that in the days before her disappearance, Trudy asked to go swimming with a friend at Campbells Island but he said no. It’s possible she went through with her plans anyways.
Dennis believes his daughter got into a boat and that Smith along with others attempted to do “funny” things with Trudy while on the Mississippi River. Dennis said Trudy would’ve tried to fight back as it was in her nature. He believes an accident or an intentional act occurred on the boat which caused Trudys death. Dennis believes whatever happened occurred on the east side of Campbells Island since that’s where Smith hung out.
Investigators believe more people are aware of what happened to Trudy and aren’t coming forward. David Whipple has refused to cooperate with police in regards to Trudys disappearance. Dennis believes he was likely also involved in Trudys demise. David was Smiths son-in-law in 1996 and reportedly lived across the street from him. Trudy knew Whipple and was good friends with his children. She often accompanied his family out on the boat.
In August of 2020, investigators named David Whipple and another man, Jamison Fisher, as persons of interest in Trudys abduction. Jamison is a longtime friend of the Smith family. Investigators have alleged that both men know what happened to Trudy and have been covering up the truth for the past 20 years.
In 2019, investigators were able to locate Smiths boat in Dubuque, Iowa and have been testing it ever since to find any trace of Trudy. They have stated that a recent buckle swab from the boat is promising but it’s unknown what’s resulted from the tests. Police are urging anyone who know about the three men and Trudy to please come forward.
Anyone who may have seen suspicious activity on Campbell’s Island, the boat launch at Empire Park in East Moline, and the Mississippi River islands of Black Bird and Dynamite are asked to call the police. Smith passed away on December 23rd 2014. He was never charged with any wrongdoing in Trudy’s case before that.
At the time of her disappearance, Trudy was described as friendly, outgoing, loving, and very bright. She often hung out with her friends she made in her neighborhood. She was excited about the upcoming school year. Her family holds a yearly vigil for her to bring awareness to her disappearance. Trudys case remains unsolved and she’s never been located.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Moline Police Department 309-797-0401