Trudy Appleby: Police Still Looking for Answers

Aug 17, 2017

Time is running out for the family of Trudy Appleby. And the Moline Police Department has released the name of the last person known to have been with her 21 years ago.


Wednesday, August 21, 1996 is the day eleven-year-old Trudy Appleby left her home in Moline but never came back. Detective Michael Griffin says the last person seen with her was William Smith, known as "Ed" Smith. He would have been 54-years-old at the time, and he lived on Campbell's Island. Police have known his name for years, but decided to release his name to the public in a last-ditch attempt to solve the case.

Here's what police have pieced together: Before the day she disappeared, Appleby asked if she could go swimming with a friend who lived on Campbell’s Island in East Moline. Her father said, "No," but phone records show she may have planned to go anyway.

On the morning of August 21st, 1996, a witness saw the eleven-year-old get into a car with a man near her home in Moline. Another witness thinks he saw Appleby riding in a similar car on Campbell's Island with a man named William Smith, nicknamed "Ed." The witness knew her personally and was only a couple of feet away from the car when it went by. And that's the last time anyone reported seeing her.

Detectives found out that Smith often took a boat to Blackbird and Dynamite island on the Mississippi River, just north of Campbell’s Island. The investigation also revealed Smith had access to a car similar to the one she got into in the morning. Other leads show the car may have been scrapped within a short time of her disappearance.

Then five years ago after getting a new lead in the Appleby case, police searched along the Rock River near Colona on Dynamite Island. They cut down some trees and used a mini-excavator to help dig at the site, but Moline detectives never said whether anything was found.

Griffin says year after year, not knowing what happened is very hard on the family. Moline Police Department is asking people to call if they have any possible information about Appleby's disappearance on or around August 21st, 1996. Especially including activities at the following locations:

  • Campbell’s Island
  • On the river and sloughs around Campbell’s Island
  • At Empire Park in East Moline
  • At or near the boat launch at Empire Park
  • On or around two islands in the Mississippi River, Black Bird and Dynamite islands.

Crimestoppers and the Appleby family are offering a $10,000 reward for information about her disappearance. Smith died in December, 2014 never admitted he knew anything about it.

The Moline Police Department is asking those with information related to the case, no matter how insignificant or inconsequential, to call detectives at 309.524.2140, or Crime Stoppers of the Quad Cities at 309.762.9500.