MOLINE — A reward to help solve the case of a girl who disappeared more than 20 years ago in the Mississippi River community of Moline has been extended.
Trudy Appleby disappeared when she was 11. She has not been seen since Aug. 21, 1996.
The $10,000 reward is being offered by the girl's family and Crime Stoppers of the Quad Cities. It is for information regarding her disappearance or any information that will help investigators resolve the case.
Moline is about 180 miles northwest of Decatur.
"The reward money leading to answers for the family of Trudy Appleby has been extended to December 31, 2017," Crime Stoppers stated on its Facebook page.
Police, earlier this year, announced the identity of a "person of interest" in the case: William “Ed” Smith. Investigators believe he may have been the last person seen with Trudy before she disappeared.
Smith died Dec. 23, 2014, and never said anything to police that indicated knowledge of the girl's disappearance, police said.
Authorities, however, have provided information based on several witness accounts from the time Appleby went missing.
A witness reported seeing the girl on Aug. 21, 1996. Appleby was near her home, getting into the passenger side of an older model, gray-colored vehicle. The witness was not able to identify the male driver.
Someone else told investigators that, on the day of the disappearance, he saw Smith in a vehicle similar to the one into which Appleby may have climbed. Smith was seen in the car near his Campbell's Island residence.
The witness told police there was a younger female sitting in the passenger seat and thought it was Trudy Appleby. The witness knew her, and the vehicle passed within a couple feet of him.
That was the last time Appleby was seen, according to police.
Smith had access to a vehicle similar to the one thought related to Appleby's disappearance. Investigators think the vehicle may have been scrapped shortly after Trudy went missing.
Smith was often on the Mississippi River around Blackbird Island and Dynamite Island north of Campbell's Island. It is an area reachable only by boat.
In October, authorities excavated ground in the area. They did not find definitive evidence, though some items they uncovered were sent away for analysis as a precaution.
Police said a home once stood on the site of the excavation. It was there in 1996 but was torn down in 2004.
A man who was interviewed in relation to the case lived there. Moline police confirmed in 2002 that they interviewed the man about Appleby's disappearance.
Trudy Appleby's father, Dennis Appleby, has said his daughter was good friends with the man's daughter and visited that family often before her disappearance.
The tip that led to October's excavation came from a member of Smith's family, Dennis Appleby said.
Anyone with information that could help investigators with the case is asked to contact the Moline police at (309) 524-2140 or Crime Stoppers of the Quad Cities at (309) 762-9500.
Crime Stoppers also accepts tips through its website, qccrimestoppers.com, and via the free mobile app “P3 Tips.”