Details of Disappearance Trudy's father departed from their family's residence to report to work at approximately 9:00 a.m. on August 21, 1996 in Moline, Illinois. A neighbor saw Trudy enter a silver or gray four-door box-style vehicle, similar to a Chevrolet Celebrity, in the driveway of her home between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.
The driver of the vehicle is described as being Caucasian and in his twenties at the time with curly brown or black hair worn long to his shoulders. The suspect was wearing a baseball cap. Neither Trudy nor her suspected abductor have been seen again. Her father reported her disappearance when he could not find her after he returned home from work.
Authorities believe that Trudy may have known the vehicle's driver. Her family's residence was located off of the main road and was not visible from the street. Her case was initially investigated as a possible runaway, but investigators now believe Trudy was abducted.
She took a swimsuit and a towel before departing from her home. She left approximately $200 behind, which her father said she saved for an upcoming vacation. Her case was initially treated as a runaway by police, but her parents never believed she left of her own accord and investigators now admit it is unlikely.
William "Ed" Smith was identified as the prime suspect in Trudy's disappearance in 2017. Smith, a friend of Trudy's father, died in 2014. A witness (reportedly his son-in-law, David Whipple), had seen Trudy in his car, and Smith threatened to kill him if the witness told the police about this.
Smith was seen alone later on the day of Trudy's disappearance, but Trudy was never seen again. He had his car scrapped within a week of Trudy's disappearance, and he acted "despondent" whenever her name was mentioned.
Trudy's father theorizes that Smith and Whipple took Trudy out on a boat on the Mississippi River and something unexpected happened, perhaps an accident, that lead to the child's death. Trudy was friends with one of Whipple's children and frequently accompanied their family on the boat. Whipple has refused to cooperate with investigators in Trudy's disappearance.
Police are appealing to anyone who might have seen any suspicious activity in the areas of Campbell's Island, Black Bird Island, Dynamite Island, or the boat launch at Empire Park in East Moline, Illinois. Trudy's case remains unsolved. Investigators stated that had little evidence and no solid suspects in her disappearance.
- Moline Police Department
Updated 9 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 13, 2018; picture added.