MOLINE, Ill. — MISSING AND MURDERED IN THE MIDWEST: A podcast looking into crimes that made the headlines, starting in the Quad City area and expanding throughout the Midwest. Podcast host and News 8 Executive Producer Toria Wilson, dedicated her time into researching the murder cases that shocked us and the missing persons cases that left us with unanswered questions.
EPISODE 13: A family without any answers still desperately miss a man central in their lives; Jerry Wolking, a father, a friend, a grandfather, disappeared nearly 30 years ago.
In the search for Wolking, there are some obvious assumptions about what happened that autumn of 1990 . But the only people who truly know how and to where the family man from Moline vanished are Wolking and whoever caused him harm.
Foul play is suspected in Wolking's case but there are pieces to the puzzle still missing.
At the time of his disappearance, Wolking is 52-years-old and an active worker at John Deere. With retirement on the horizon, he was in the process of getting divorced and dating someone new.
In October 1990, Wolking wasn't acting like himself, according to some family members. He was acting odd, different from the warm, loving man they knew him to be.
At his granddaughter's birthday party, Wolking was pacing, seemingly pre-occupied with his thoughts. His family became especially concerned when he left the party before giving the birthday girl her gift.
The last person to see him alive was his girlfriend around 11 p.m. Oct. 18. Wolking made it home that night and was even planning on going to work the next day; His alarm clock was set, his lunch was packed and his heart medication was laid out for the next morning.
For the past few years police have believed that he got home right after seeing his girlfriend where he was confronted by one or more attackers.
A struggle took place before someone got into Wolking's Chevy Suburban. Jerry was hit by the car, but it's unclear if he died.
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He was thrown into the back of the SUV never to be seen or heard from again.
When Wolking failed to report to work the next day, police and his family began the search that has yet to come to an end.
On Oct. 21, 1990, Wolking's son Jerry Wolking Jr. found his father's SUV parked at the Quad City International Airport in the long-term parking section.
Jerry Jr. knew the minute he saw his father's SUV that something was terribly wrong.
Wolking was an avid car lover and was even president of a local car club. His friends and family knew that Wolking would never leave his vehicles in less than pristine condition.
When his son stumbled upon the SUV the tires and undercarriage were caked in dried mud and the contents inside were tossed about as if it had been ransacked.
On all four sides, blood drops were found on the exterior of Wolking's vehicle. Inside, some blood stains were found.
Police determined Wolking was hit because of the blood as well as the damage around the grill and headlight of the 1988 blue and white Suburban. An indent on the hood of the car was also consistent with a person being hit.
Back then, police said there was no indiciation Wolking hopped on a flight, but where did he go?
If someone ran Wolking over, who could it have been?
His family, including his soon to be ex-wife Vonnie, didn't have the slightest idea.
"He had lots of friends," Vonnie said. "I don't know of any enemies and the family loved him very dearly. I can't think of anyone in the family that would want to hurt him."
But what about Wolking's girlfriend?
Police haven't released her name but say the couple were in love and that she wasn't involved with Wolking's disappearance. Their relationship, spanning several months, must have caused some jealousy.
Most likely for Cornelius Sedam, Wolking's girlfriend's estranged husband who, by all accounts, Wolking knew.
By 2013, the case went cold. You can't solve a crime unless you have some proof, right?
During a cold case review, witnesses slowly began to creep forward.
Some mentioned that Wolking confided in family members and co-workers about being afraid of Sedam. Wolking, they said, was afraid his girlfriend's ex would kill him and that if anything were to happen to him, Sedam was probably responsible.
A private investigator also came forward describing how Sedam, a Rock Island man, hired him to find out everything he could on Wolking.
Another witness said he remembered seeing a vehicle that matched the description of Wolking’s Suburban early on Oct. 19, 1990. The vehicle was stuck in the mud near a wooded area of the Poplar Grove addition, just east of the Green Valley softball complex in Moline.
It was in this spot where, a week after Wolking's disappearance, his wallet was found as well.
With the help of Augustana College's Geology Department, forensic testing was done on the dirt and grass found on Wolking's SUV. Tests indicated samples were similar to the Poplar Grove area.
In the summer of 2013, investigators began to dig hoping to find Wolking's body.
"There were things they found in the case that led them to believe that possibly that is the location where he may have ended up," Moline Police Detective Michael Griffin said. "So they brought in the cadaver dogs to aid in the search."
Griffin said while all the leads in the case have since been exhausted, police believe his body was thrown in this area and buried.
Police also searched some land in Milan that was once owned by relatives of Sedam but that hunch, turned up nothing.
Here's what we know for sure
Jerry Wolking is probably dead and Moline police have an idea of who did it, but that person has been dead for nearly a decade.
Wolking's girlfriend at the time of his disappearance isn't currently a suspect but she also refuses to cooperate with the investigation.
"That case is long done, you should just leave it alone," she said to police.
The truth is that people know what happened.
Nearly 15 years after Wolking vanished, credible tips were streaming through the police department.
In the last six years, police were able to piece together this timeline of what might've happened, when, how and where he was taken.
They just need the last few puzzle pieces to finally solve this case.
"There are people who live within our community that continue to harbor these secrets," Griffin said. "Maybe those people that they've had relationships with now want to tell us so we can give the Wolking family the resolution they deserve."
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