Thirty-two years ago, the disappearance of a Moline man became what is now one of the most high-profile, longest-running missing-persons cases in the Quad Cities.
Jerry Wolking Sr., then 52, left his girlfriend’s house on the 800 block of 25th Avenue, Rock Island, the night of Oct. 18, 1990. The John Deere Harvester Works employee remains missing and has not been seen to this day, although he did arrive at his home on the 3500 block of 44th Avenue, Moline Police say.
Investigators think Jerry was struck by his own truck – that someone used the 1988 Suburban and hit him with it, leaving him with fatal injuries.
Law enforcement thinks the suspect, whom they believe is deceased, may have placed Jerry’s body in the back of the vehicle and dumped his body. And the suspect may not have worked alone.
At first, Jerry’s truck was missing, too, but it was found Oct. 22 at the Quad Cities International Airport. It was damaged and covered in mud. There was fresh damage to the front end and there was blood inside the vehicle.
Evidence analyzed in 2013 shows that Wolking was struck by his own truck, critically injured or likely killed, then placed inside his own truck and transported from the scene.
Witnesses who came forward in late 2013 said they saw his truck revving its engine while stuck in mud near the Poplar Grove area in Moline – that’s the area east of 60th Street, behind what is now Skip-A-Long Day Care, according to a Moline Police Facebook post updating the case in October 2022.
A forensic geological examination of the area in October 2013 showed the soil from the Poplar Grove area was scientifically similar to the soil recovered from the hitch of Wolking’s Chevrolet Suburban in 1990 and saved as evidence. An examination of a portion of that area did not lead to any new clues in the disappearance, police say in the post.
In 1990, Cornelius Sedam became a person of interest in the case because he was the estranged husband of Wolking’s girlfriend at the time. Sedam lived near his estranged wife at the time in 1990, according to police.
Before Jerry Wolking’s disappearance, Sedam openly was searching for information on Wolking and his residence. Sedam had been using the city directory to contact every Wolking listed and tried to use a private investigator to track Wolking and Wolking’s vehicle, the post says.
Once Sedam located Wolking’s phone number, he called it several times leading up to Oct. 18, 1990. On the night of Wolking’s disappearance, at about the same time Wolking left his girlfriend’s residence – about 10:30-10:45 p.m. – Sedam made a phone call to a closed convenience store near his residence and let the phone sit off the hook for a long period of time, police say.
Sedam lived in the area for several years and knew the store to be closed at that time of day, according to police.
Wolking was never seen again. Sedam did not make another phone call to the Wolking residence after Oct. 18, 1990, the post says.
On the morning of Oct. 22, 1990, the same day Wolking’s truck was found, Sedam left the Quad City area for a period of time. Sedam died in 2010 without giving a statement to law enforcement.
“The Moline Police Department is still actively searching for the remains of Jerry Wolking,” police say in the October 2022 post. “The Wolking family deserve to give their father a dignified burial at a place of their choosing.We are asking anyone with information to contact the Moline Police Department Criminal Investigations Division at 309-524-2140, message us on here or call Crime Stoppers of the Quad Cities at 309-762-9500.Every family deserves answers and we will never give up looking for them.”
A memorial service was held many years ago, and a stone was placed at National Cemetery on the Rock Island Arsenal in Jerry’s memory.