Family, friends holding out hope for answers in Trudy Appleby’s disappearance

EAST MOLINE, Illinois--  Dozens of people gathered at the First Baptist Church Tuesday evening to mark the 22nd anniversary of Trudy Appleby's disappearance.

But the woman who was her neighbor all those years ago said they're not resting until they have answers.

"It's the not knowing that's probably the hardest thing," Kelly Carlson said.

Trudy went missing 22 years ago on Aug. 21, 1996. According to investigators, she left with a man, still unidentified today. She was later seen that day with William "Ed" Smith. He believed to be the last person to see Trudy alive, but he passed away two years before he was named a person of interest.

But Carlson said someone out there knows what happened to the 11-year-old girl.

That's why family and friends continue to gather every year on this day.

"To remember Trudy, and to make it known that we won't let her be forgotten. And that nobody's going to stop until we have the truth," Carlson said.

Dennis Harker, director of the Quad Cities Missing Persons Network, said the Appleby's have experienced a range of emotions over the years.

"It's like an open wound that just never heals," he said. "It's a roller coaster. And it's just difficult to deal with because you never know. Until you find out, it's just going to always  be a question."

Carlson recalled the day she met Trudy. She said the little girl was playing outside her home and asked if there were any kids in the neighborhood she could play with. That's how Carlson's daughter and Trudy became friends.

"[Trudy] was a bright light in an otherwise dark world," she said.

Now, the mother and daughter are running a Facebook page, trying to find out what happened.

A few months ago, billboards went up around the Quad Cities, asking for anyone with details to call crime stoppers. But Carlson said the response wasn't as strong.

"Usually we get some messages," she said. "We haven't had any really credible messages."

But that's not stopping the family and friends who hope to one day lay Trudy to rest.