The father of a girl who has been missing for 21 years personally challenged a man he thinks may have information that will lead to the discovery of his daughter.
At a memorial vigil that has been held annually since his child’s disappearance, Dennis Appleby of Moline asked David Whipple to come forward with the truth. Appleby was one of dozens of people who packed the First Baptist Church, East Moline, for the 30-minute vigil Monday night.
“It’s time for truth,” Dennis Appleby said before the event began. His daughter, Trudy Appleby, 11, disappeared in 1996.
Appleby said he received many calls after Moline police issued a news release Thursday that named the late William “Ed” Smith as a person of interest in the case.
Appleby’s daughter, Brandi Whited, 18, of Davenport, said she never met Trudy. She said it was nice “to see that people care” as she watched people file into the church.
In the small sanctuary, the Rev. Dan Yeager, who had been Trudy’s pastor, led a brief service.
“She didn’t stay in one place in church," he said. "She was family. She liked to run around.”
Kelly Carlson of Moline, who has attended the other vigils, spoke for the first time.
“Trudy was my neighbor. I met her shortly after we moved into our house,” she said. Trudy, who was friends with Carlson’s daughter, told Carlson’s daughter she would call her in the morning the day before she disappeared.
“For 21 years, we’ve all been asking the same question: Who was it?” Carlson said. “Even though we have a name, we don’t have Trudy.”
“You need to lead us to her so we can bring her home and put her to rest,” Carlson said.
“We now know what happened to Trudy. We know who took her,” said Dennis Appleby, whose emotions made it difficult for him to speak at times.
He directed some of his comments at David Whipple, saying that Whipple has gone on record to say that he saw William “Ed” Smith with Trudy the day she disappeared.
“We have all the pieces — where she left, who she left with,” Appleby said. He urged Whipple to tell all he knows about Trudy's disappearance.
After Appleby’s remarks, those gathered lit candles and sang “It is Well With My Soul.”
Several of those attending, including Carlson, wore T-shirts with Trudy’s picture on the front and “Brenda Eddleman Gordon 1961-2014 – keeping hope” on the back. That is a reference to Trudy’s mother, who died in 2014 when she tried to walk across the road in the 5400 block of Avenue of the Cities, Moline, and was struck and killed by a van
Smith, who died in 2014, is believed to be the last person to have seen 11-year-old Trudy Appleby in 1996, according to a news release Moline police issued Thursday. Moline police named Smith as a possible person of interest.
In the news release, Moline Police Detective Michael Griffin said Trudy was last seen near her home, and that on Aug. 21, 1996, she got into the passenger side of an older model, gray-colored vehicle with an unknown male.
A witness — who Appleby identified as Whipple — observed Smith in a similar vehicle near his residence in East Moline on Campbell’s Island in the late morning hours of Aug. 21, 1996.
The witness saw a young female in the passenger seat of that vehicle and believed that person to be Trudy, whom the witness personally knew.
The vehicle passed within a couple of feet of the witness. No other witnesses have come forward with information on any further sightings.
Information obtained from the investigation showed that Smith often traveled to the area of Blackbird Island or Dynamite Island, which are accessible only by boat on the northern edge of Campbell’s Island.
The investigation has shown that Smith had access to a vehicle similar to the one that was described as having picked up Trudy Appleby on Aug. 21, 1996. Leads from the investigation show that particular vehicle may have been scrapped shortly after she disappeared, according to the release.
Griffin said in the release that Smith died Dec. 23, 2014, and never admitted knowledge about Trudy’s disappearance, although he may have been the last person known to be seen with her before she vanished.