The face, and the name, of an 11-year-old girl who went missing in 1996 is well known to thousands of Quad-City residents.
Despite vigils, searches, and a continuing investigation, the child who was last seen Aug. 21 of that year has yet to be found.
Her name is Trudy Appleby, and her whereabouts remains a mystery more than 25 years after she vanished.
The day she vanished
Trudy’s father, Dennis, left the family’s residence to go to work about 9 a.m. that morning.
A neighbor saw Trudy enter a silver or gray four-door box-style vehicle between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. in the driveway of her home. The man driving the car was described as being in his 20s with curly brown or black hair.
Her father reported her missing when he couldn’t find her after he got home from work. She took a swimsuit and towel before she left home. Although her father had told her earlier she couldn’t go swimming when she asked, he has said she probably decided to go anyway.
Police think Trudy may have known the man driving the car.
In 2017, William “Ed” Smith, a friend of Trudy’s father, was identified as a person of interest. What he knew is lost forever: Smith died in 2014.
In August of 2020, two more men were named persons of interest: David Whipple of Colona and Jamison Fisher of Silvis.
Investigators believe Whipple and Fisher have knowledge of what happened to Trudy, and are possibly involved in her disappearance and its coverup.
Fisher was sentenced to prison in May of 2021 on an unrelated charge.
Annually, people gather to remember Trudy. Online resources list her case as one of the mysteries that remains to be solved. And her family members continue to wonder when they will know the whereabouts of the little girl with the bright smile.
‘She was vivacious’ – a neighbor remembers
Kelly Roland Carlson, who was Trudy’s neighbor in Moline, continues to create awareness about the case with the Missing Trudy Appleby Facebook page.
Kelly’s daughter, Amber. and Trudy were fast friends. “Trudy was at our house the night before she disappeared,” Kelly told Local 4 News.
Trudy was “vivacious. She was a ball of energy. She just loved everybody and she just trusted everybody,” Kelly says.
The day Trudy disappeared, Amber, who was 13 at the time, was supposed to call her, and the two had planned to spend the day together. By the time Amber called, there was no answer.
Throughout the years, Kelly has been impressed with Moline Police, especially Detective Michael Griffin, who continue to follow leads in the case. “Detective Griffin is amazing,” she said.
Kelly believes someone has the answer to Trudy’s disappearance. She wants to keep Trudy’s case in the public eye “so that somebody will remember something.
Trudy’s mother, who is now deceased, was afraid the case would never be solved. Kelly has promised to continue to create awareness of the case.
She begs people to “think back dive back into your memory banks. She must have said something to somebody. “
“Think back,” Kelly pleads again. “There’s got to be somebody that knows something. We just want to know where the people involved put her.”
Anyone with any information should call Moline Police at 309-797-0401 or Crime Stoppers at 309-762-9500.