At the start of the school year in 1976, 16-year-old Trenny Lynn Gibson disappeared while on a school field trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Clingmans Dome. Did she fall? Was she abducted? The only witness to the awful mystery is the Appalachia itself.
- “Knoxville Youth Missing in Mts.” by Staff for The Daily News-Journal
- “Searchers Still Find No Trace of Missing Girl” by the Associated Press
- “Still No Trace of Lost Girl” by the Associated Press
- “Search Ends in Park Area” by Statesville Record and Landmark via the Associated Press
- “Search for Girl Who Disappeared in Park Stopped” by Johnson City Press via the Associated Press
- “Three Who Got Lost Decades Ago in the Smokies Never Found” by Bob Hodge for the Associated Press
- “Trenny Lynn Gibson – Strange Disappearances From U.S. National Park” by Strange Outdoors
- “Appalachian Unsolved: Trenny Gibson, Missing in The Smokies” by WBIR Channel 10 News
- “Appalachian Unsolved: Trenny Gibson, Lost in The Smokies” by John North and Leslie Acherson for Channel 10 News
- “Trenny Gibson – 2 Suspect Simpson” Interview with Laura Riste by Tim Pilleri and Lance Reenstierna
- “Missing: Trenny Lynn Gibson” by Unsolved Appalachia
- “Trenny Lynn Gibson” via The Charley Project
- “Case File 425DFTN” The Doe Network
- Clingman’s Dome Info
- “Gone In The Smoky Mountains: Trenny Gibson’s Disappearance” by Laura Riste
Hi park enthusiasts…
I’m your host, Delia D’Ambra, and today’s story is one that I just can’t wrap my mind around.
After researching it and combing the internet for every scrap of information available. I’m still mystified by the disappearance of 16-year-old Teresa Lynn Gibson.
Her case takes place in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a park we’ve talked about once before this season in the episode about Michael Hearon.
And as I told you once before, the Smoky Mountains are really big.
Combined with some neighboring national forests, the Smokies, in general, take up a considerable portion of Eastern Tennessee.
In October 1976 Teresa went on a high school field trip with her friends on a section of the Appalachian Trail and was never seen again.
Theories of what happened to her range from accident to abduction to conspiracy, and the truth may be more terrifying than anyone will ever know.
This is Park Predators.
SFX of car pulling to a stop and idling
On the morning of Friday, October 8th, 1976, Hope Gibson pulled up to the curb outside of Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.
In the passenger seat was her 16-year-old daughter Teresa Lynn Gibson, who everyone called Trenny.
Hope had already dropped off Trenny’s two younger sisters at their schools and Trenny was her last stop for the morning.
Hope told her daughter goodbye, that she loved her, and to be careful on her class’s field trip later that day.
Earlier in the week, Trenny and the other students were told the class was going on a field trip on Friday but they weren’t told where. So, Hope made sure Trenny had a paper bag lunch and appropriate clothes just in case the trip ended up being outdoors.
Trenny got out of the car and walked toward the school. Hope drove off, unaware that would be the last time she’d ever see her daughter.
SFX of school bus driving & breaking
A few hours later, around noon, 45 Bearden High School students walked off their school bus in the parking lot at Clingmans Dome Observation tower inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Wayne Dunlap, the lone teacher in charge of all the students, grouped them off into smaller clusters and gave them maps and information about the park.
According to Laura Riste’s reporting, up until the school bus pulled into the Clingmans Dome parking lot, the students had no idea what the field trip destination was…neither did their parents.
Mr. Dunlap had kept the trip’s details a secret from the class until they got on the bus and arrived. He later told investigators he wanted to surprise them and figured they would be really excited to spend the afternoon studying plants in the park. After all, it was a horticulture class.
And he was right, everyone on the bus was really excited for the day’s plan. Especially Trenny. She loved the outdoors and had grown up in Knoxville. She’d never been in the national park before and was really interested in studying the plants and animals.
The group started their hike from Clingmans Dome observatory which, according to the National Park Service, is the highest point in all of Tennessee. If you stand in the tall concrete observation tower at 6,600 feet you can see 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains and even a little beyond that.
There was a paved trail a half a mile long that led visitors from the parking area up to the observation tower. There were also a few other trails that started at the parking lot but led instead of going to the tower, split off to the Appalachian Trail or other sections of the park.
Mr. Dunlap told the students they would only be hiking on the Appalachian Trail. He’d tasked them with studying plants and flora inside the park at both Clingman’s Dome mountain in Tennessee and at their turn around point just over the border in North Carolina called Andrews Bald.
They had strict instructions to be back at the school bus in the Clingman’s Dome parking lot at 3:30 pm sharp.
SFX of nature sounds
The stretch of trail Trenny and her class hiked is roughly two miles end-to-end. It’s marked well with signage and by all standards should have been a piece of cake for a few dozen young, healthy high school students.
In some spots though the trail did get a little hairy. Like if you got too close to the side in a few places you could easily go down steep drop-offs. A few of those ravines were essentially either straight drop-offs or deep ditches that lead into thick, tangled brush. Not a place most people wanted to be.
Trenny hiked with a small group of two or three students, including a boy who was a year older than her named Robert Simpson. Robert was best friends with Trenny’s older brother, Robert Gibson Junior, who was 18 and had already graduated from high school.
SFX of school bus idling
By 3:30 in the afternoon the students had finished up their hike and were congregating back at the school bus in the Clingmans Dome parking lot.
As Mr. Dunlap was counting heads, he noticed Trenny wasn’t in the group.
Figuring that she was just lagging behind, Dunlap waited, but five minutes turned into ten, then fifteen and eventually longer and there was still no sign of Trenny.
Two of her friends, including Robert Simpson, told the teacher that the last time they’d seen Trenny she was with them at Andrews Bald. She’d expressed she wanted to head back to the bus but they wanted to stay a little longer and hang out. So, she began walking alone back down the trail to catch up with another cluster of students who were hiking.
Two other students told Mr. Dunlap that they’d seen Trenny around 2:50 pm while they were taking a break to rest on the trail about three-quarters of a mile back from the parking lot. They’d decided to rest for longer and Trenny hiked on ahead of them.
When they last saw her she was walking away from them in the direction of Clingman’s Dome. When she was about 200 yards ahead of them, sort of around a bend, they noticed that she’d crouched down to look at something off in the woods, then stepped off of the trail and disappeared.
When they finally got moving again and passed the spot where Trenny had walked off the trail, they didn’t see her. They called her name a few times but she didn’t answer. They brushed it off and just figured they’d missed seeing her get back on the trail somewhere up ahead of them.
Taking all of the students’ stories into account, Mr. Dunlap became concerned that Trenny was lost in the woods. He told a male student to run the two miles or so back to Andrews Bald and look for Trenny there. Dunlap himself took a quick half a mile trek to look for Trenny on the trail. When another 15 or 20 minutes went by with no sign of her, Mr. Dunlap alerted a park ranger that Trenny was missing.
The ranger radioed the Knox County sheriff’s and from there deputies alerted Trenny’s parents, Robert and Hope Gibson, and their oldest son, 18-year-old Robert Junior. By nightfall, the family had driven to the park and met the school group and park rangers at the Clingmans Dome parking lot.
The drive from town to Clingmans Dome is 23 miles. The only road to get there is Clingmans Dome Road and it dead ends into the parking lot at the base of the mountain’s observation tower.
The Gibsons were obviously distraught as you can imagine. At that point, all of the other students were accounted for except their daughter. The school bus that had brought the students to the park had been sent back to Bearden High School with all of the teens in tow.
The thought in everyone’s mind, including authorities, was that maybe Trenny had just gotten turned around on the hike and was lost in the forest or had fallen and was injured.
Perhaps she’d slipped on one of the steep drop-offs on the trail where her classmates lost sight of her. Rangers were worried she might be in one area in particular known as Deep Creek drainage field. That spot was very close to where she’d last been seen and was full of briars, fir trees, and other thick evergreens. That kind of foliage cover would make spotting her nearly impossible.
Around seven o’clock that night park rangers gathered a small crew of deputies for a search of the area. They reminded everyone of one unique and sort of disturbing thing, that sound in the park wouldn’t travel far.
Because of all the leaf cover and heavy overgrowth in some areas, any kind of call for help or scream wouldn’t go very far. The leaves on the trees literally would muffle sound waves. So, if Trenny was shouting out for help, no one would likely hear her. So, the best things to be on the lookout for were her clothes or broken branches and matted brush that would indicate if she’d fallen or wandered off.
According to an article for Strange Outdoors, park officials and law enforcement launched this small search effort for Trenny on Friday evening, just a few hours after she disappeared. They searched until three o’clock in the morning but found no trace of the girl.
The next morning, Saturday, authorities leashed up several bloodhounds and German shepherds and gave them some of Trenny’s unwashed clothing to get her scent.
Right away, the dogs picked up her scent on the Appalachian Trail, where the two students had seen her step off the trail.
The dogs followed her scent from that spot towards the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, got another strong hit around the base of the tower, but then the dogs went in a direction far away from where Trenny’s school bus would have been waiting.
And what they found at the end of the scent trail was puzzling.
SFX of dogs sniffing
When dogs tracking Trenny Gibson scent followed their noses to the base of the Clingman’s Dome observation tower, they led investigators further away from the parking lot.
The dogs went completely off the designated dirt trail and led police through some thick woods and out to the side of a nearby road.
Once on the road, the dogs lost Trenny’s scent.
The section of roadway where they’d stopped was on the Tennessee-North Carolina border and had a parking lot nearby. It’s a spot that’s still there today and has room for like 15 to 20 cars to park there.
If the dogs tracking skills were to be believed, Trenny’s scent disappearing near the road wasn’t a good sign to investigators. It indicated that at some point she’d made it to the roadway but then gotten into or been put into a vehicle.
There were only two reasons for that.
One, she either walked through the woods alone to meet someone who was waiting to pick her up…which would have been hard since she didn’t know the field trip’s destination until that morning…or Two and more likely, someone had abducted Trenny, transported her to a car and driven her out of the park.
According to Strange Outdoors’ article on this case, several items of interest were found both on the trail where Trenny stepped off and on the road where the scent dogs stopped. Scattered around both locations were the same brand of cigarettes and a few beer cans. Some of the cigarette butts were in a pile like someone had smoked several of them at the same time then stamped them out and the beer in the cans smelled fresh.
According to Laura Riste’s reporting, more cigarettes of the same brand were found along the section of the Appalachian Trail that Trenny had been hiking. It was believed that these cigarettes did not belong to Trenny because according to her classmates she had not brought any with her that day. Her family told police that they knew Trenny sometimes smoked at school, but she didn’t carry packs with her.
Around this time is when the park rangers and Knox County sheriff’s deputies called in the FBI to help investigate. Agents began interviewing Trenny’s classmates who were on the hike with her. One by one they sat them down in the Bearden High school gym and questioned them about everything they’d heard or seen during the field trip.
All of the teenagers told investigators the same story they’d told park rangers which was that the last time they saw Trenny she was walking with them on the trail but then disappeared after stepping away for a split second.
No one reported she had any enemies at school or talked about wanting to run away.
Trenny was the second oldest of four children. In August 1976, she’d just celebrated her 16th birthday. Her older brother, Robert Junior was 18, and she had two younger siblings Tina, age 14, and Miracle who was 6.
Trenny’s friends described her as a normal teenage girl who liked studying plants and nature. She enjoyed listening to music and smoking at the smoking pit at Bearden High.
By all accounts, she was a quiet girl who many people referred to as somewhat of a loner. She had a handful of friends but she tended to keep to herself most of the time. According to reporting by Laura Riste, Trenny had set her heart on attending the University of Tennessee and studying landscape architecture.
Within days of her disappearance, one student in particular who was on the hike really got law enforcement’s attention as a possible good suspect.
Robert Simpson, the older boy who’d been with Trenny most of the afternoon. According to Laura Riste’s reporting, Robert Simpson and Trenny’s older brother Robert Gibson Junior were really good friends.
A day prior to the field trip, Robert Junior had asked Robert Simpson to keep an eye out on Trenny on the outing. Even though her brother didn’t know the destination of the trip, he wanted to make sure someone was keeping tabs on Trenny and watching out for her. She’d never been in the park and Robert Junior was worried about his sister’s safety.
Robert Simpson was from the same town as Trenny, attended the same high school, and was a really outdoorsy kid. He grew up as an experienced hiker and hunter but was overweight, a little awkward and according to other students wore overalls a lot that made him stick out. According to the classmates on the field trip, Robert Simpson may have had a crush on Trenny.
Trenny was allowed to date after she turned 16 according to her family’s rules, but she didn’t have a boyfriend at the time she disappeared. She also had not told anyone that she had any interest in Robert Simpson. As far as anyone knew, they were just friends and knew each other because Robert Junior and Robert Simpson were good friends.
Robert Simpson came from an affluent family despite his sort of rugged mountain man vibe. His father was a prominent attorney in the area and actually became the district attorney for that county in the years after Trenny’s disappearance.
According to interviews with students from the hike, Robert’s whereabouts during the last 45 minutes of the field trip weren’t exactly known. There was a brief period of time after he and Trenny parted ways on Andrews Bald that no one in the group of 45 students remembered seeing him on the trail.
When investigators asked Robert about this, he told them on his return hike from Andrews Bald he’d gone off for a few minutes on his own to track a bear. That essentially was his alibi. He said he tracked the bear until it was time for him to head back to the bus.
According to interviews with other students, Robert did make it back to the school bus on time with the other students. One girl said when she saw him arrive he was huffing and puffing like he was out of breath, but that wasn’t necessarily all that surprising because he was overweight and had been known to have asthma.
Trenny’s family got a chance to question Robert about the missing chunk of his time on the hike and they asked him why he let Trenny walk away on her own that day in the park if he was supposed to be watching out for her. According to Laura Riste who interviewed Trenny’s grandmother, when Robert was faced with that question he physically jumped up out of his chair, firmly said what he’d always claimed, which was that he was tracking a bear. Then he ran out of the house and never spoke to them again.
By all accounts, the bear tracking story has been Robert’s alibi since 1976, and on advice from his father who was an attorney that’s what he stuck to.
The story on its face though seems questionable to me. Why would you track a bear on a high school field trip with no firearm? What was he going to do if he found it? Why would anyone want to track and confront a bear unarmed knowing that you had to be back with your classmates at 3:30 pm sharp?
But besides that, probably the most suspicious red flag about Robert Simpson was that a day after Trenny disappeared, Robert Gibson Junior was with him in his car and saw a comb that belonged to Trenny sitting on the dashboard.
The Gibson family knew it belonged to Trenny because Trenny’s sister Tina had an identical matching one. Hope had bought matching combs for both of her daughters. The Gibson’s, especially Hope, were adamant that Trenny’s comb was something she’d never be without and would always kept in one of her pockets.
Robert Junior asked Robert Simpson why he had Trenny’s comb and Simpson’s reply was that Trenny had given it to him before the field trip and just quote– “Wanted him to hang on to it for her.”–end quote.
Despite this, and rumors swirling that he was possibly involved, nothing ever materialized to the point that law enforcement arrested him or took him in for any further interrogation. My question also is, if he had done something to Trenny, what happened to her body? How after all those search efforts was it never found? It’s literally one of my biggest questions in this case.
Meanwhile, the search for Trenny in the park had to continue. By the weekend, temperatures in the park had dropped to 31 degrees. Freezing. This proved to be challenging when park officials organized a larger-scale search around dawn.
A lot of fog had settled in the mountains on Saturday and it had started to drizzle.
On Sunday, October 10th, three hundred searchers including volunteers came out in 20-degree weather to search the mountains, looking for any sign of Trenny.
According to the Daily News Journal, four helicopters flew over the forest and mountain ridges around Clingman’s Dome and at Andrew’s Bald. The pilots were trying to use the wind from the helicopter blades to move around the thick, dense trees. Without the wind, it was impossible to see the forest floor.
Once again, their efforts went nowhere.
By nightfall on Sunday, the park’s chief ranger announced that the day’s search had covered a two-to- three-mile radius from the spot where Trenny was last seen on the Appalachian Trail. In total searchers had covered as far as 10 miles out from her last known location.
The next day, Monday, October 11th, search and rescue teams were still determined to cover even more ground. About 150 men who worked for the national park, the civil air patrol, and local police departments
armed themselves with Trenny’s clothing and used more bloodhounds and scent dogs to cover hundreds of square miles of woods and trails around Clingmans Dome, but their efforts were fruitless.
The weather challenges only got worse throughout the week, making the searcher’s task extremely hard. Law enforcement knew that if Trenny was still out there alone in the park somewhere, she was likely on the brink of freezing to death.
One bright side to the search was the fact that police had a very specific description of what she was wearing.
She was described as five foot three inches tall, had long brown hair, and had on Adidas tennis shoes, blue jeans, a blue blouse, and a blue and white sweater. Her friends also saw her wearing a brown plaid CPO-style jacket that Robert Simpson had let her borrow.
Now, the CPO jacket was kind of distinctive. I had to look up what those letters stood for and basically what I learned is that this kind of jacket is sort of a shirt and jacket. It was really popular in the 1960’s and 70’s and was usually made of thicker material and had two square-edged flap pockets on the front. Think of it like a really thick flannel shirt. A lot of big department stores back then, like J.C. Penney and Sears, sold them.
In law enforcement’s mind at the time, Trenny having that men’s jacket with her, wherever she was, was important because the temperatures in the park had dropped so much in the days that she was missing.
The jacket would be essential to her keeping warm if she was still alive.
On October 12th, five days into the search the lead park ranger on the case went full on public with the theory that Trenny was still alive and no longer in the park.
Essentially a runaway theory.
He told the Associated Press that the cigarette and beer can evidence the dogs had found on the side of the road suggested it was possible that Trenny had been able to keep warm enough long enough to somehow make it out of the park and meet a friend who’d possibly picked her up.
He suggested if it wasn’t that scenario, then she’d come across someone who’d picked her up and taken her to get help or maybe to a hospital or something.
The immediate problem with that theory though was that no one had come forward to report picking Trenny up AND no area hospitals reported a 16-year-old girl coming in for treatment. There was zero sign that Trenny had made it out of the park on her own free will at all since Friday afternoon, but still, this park ranger was convinced she had and that she wasn’t abducted.
The only alternative theories were that she’d fallen and died somewhere and the extensive searches just hadn’t found her yet and may never find her, or worst-case scenario, against authorities beliefs, she’d been abducted.
Leads in the case dried up and rumors about what happened to Trenny swirled for weeks. In all of that time, not a single shred of evidence showed up telling authorities where she was or what happened to her.
Her father Robert told the Associated Press in late October of 1976 that he did NOT believe authorities’ theory that Trenny left the park voluntarily with someone and ran away. He said that she had several reasons not to abandon her life and take off. One of those was the fact that she had left her ID, makeup, and $200 in cash in her room at home and there was another $1,000 in her bank account that had never been touched.
Trenny’s brother, Robert Junior, told reporters with the News-Sentinel that he felt the same as his dad.
When Trenny disappeared Robert Junior had just returned from Florida where he’d been in boot camp for the U.S. Navy since July. He said that he and Trenny were super close their entire lives and she would never have run away, especially because he’d just returned home.
According to Laura Riste’s reporting, Robert Junior got home on Wednesday and Trenny disappeared two days later on Friday. He said she wouldn’t have gone anywhere with anyone, knowing that he had just gotten home and they could spend time together.
Robert Senior told several newspapers that he felt strongly in his heart that his daughter didn’t leave on her own free will. He and his wife Hope were certain Trenny had been abducted or possibly murdered inside the park.
Their main reason for thinking this was an incident that had happened a year earlier.
One that involved a home invasion, a shooting, and direct threats against Trenny.
Robert and Hope Gibson told Knox County Sheriff’s office detectives that in October of 1975 a young man had attacked the family.
The suspect was named Kelvin Bowman and he had been a student at Bearden High School and was known to commit petty crimes in the Knoxville/Gatlinburg area.
According to Laura Riste’s reporting, one night Kelvin broke into Gibson’s home and Trenny’s mother, Hope, shot him in the foot.
He survived and was eventually convicted of home invasion. A judge sentenced him to serve two years in a juvenile correctional institution. According to reporting by the News-Sentinel, when he was in the courtroom Kelvin vowed to retaliate against the Gibson family when he was released.
He outright threatened to kill Trenny when he got out.
He was sentenced to two years but got out after only six months. When Trenny disappeared, he was enrolled at and attending Bearden High School.
Now, as you can imagine this past history with Kelvin seemed like a pretty legit motive for him to want to hurt the Gibson family.
Robert Senior went to authorities with this information in the winter of 1976 hoping the FBI would seriously look into it. Articles from newspapers at the time state that Knox County investigators followed up on the report but it didn’t lead to any revelations about what happened to Trenny.
According to Bearden High’s principal, Kelvin was attending class and was accounted for at the school when Trenny disappeared in the park.
The family felt like they were hitting brick wall after brick wall with the abduction theory and the Kelvin theory so they cooled it for a little while trying to push investigators in that direction.
They had no choice but to trust the park service and FBI. Trenny’s dad told the News Sentinel quote — “The only thing we can do now is trust in the Lord and the FBI”–end quote.
On November 1st, 1976 park officials called off the formal search for Trenny. By that point, they had blown through hundreds of hours of manpower and resources with no results to show for it. Without Trenny’s body or any sign of her, they couldn’t prove one way or the other whether she’d gotten lost or was abducted. Technically they couldn’t even prove if she was even dead.
Authorities told reporters for the Statesville Record and Landmark that they would conduct more searches for Trenny in 1977 on a sporadic basis as emergency personnel became available.
According to all of the research I found on this story, the status of Trenny’s case remained static between November 1976 and the start of the following summer.
The next update came in May 1977 when authorities in the park officially discontinued efforts to find her.
According to media reports, the National Park Service ordered rangers and hikers to be on the lookout during the summer of 1977 for any sign of her clothing or remains.
They stated that if Trenny had been alive and lost in the park somewhere after she vanished, there was no way she would have survived the harsh winter. It was almost guaranteed that she was dead.
No other formal searches were done after that and everyone just sort of stopped thinking about the case for a few years.
The next time it showed up in news headlines was in 1982, when Robert Gibson Senior decided to really go public with the family’s belief that Trenny had been lured by someone in the park and either kidnapped or killed.
He told the News Sentinel that the entire family felt certain that someone had done harm to Trenny in those woods or that she was taken out of the park and killed.
In the years after that though, there hasn’t been a lot of evidence found to support that theory. I mean, it’s what most people in Knoxville believe happened to Trenny but because her remains have never been found, it’s hard to prove.
The only things left for people and law enforcement to scrutinize have been theories about suspects.
Obviously, Robert Simpson is someone I think could know a lot more than he’s ever said. According to reports, he’s never been interrogated further or arrested. According to Laura Riste he still lives in Eastern Tennessee.
Other people over the years that were put forward as possible suspects included Wayne Dunlap, Trenny’s teacher. A lot of people have suggested that he should have been investigated more.
Mr. Dunlap was the only adult with the high school group the day Trenny disappeared. That seems sort of surprising in today’s era to have 45 kids with only one adult chaperone but back in 1976, I don’t think it was all that unheard of.
Mr. Dunlap actually hiked the trail with the students on the day Trenny vanished. He often stayed near the back to bring up and keep track of any struggling students. The teens on the trip all remembered seeing him during the hike. At no point was he M.I.A.
The only potential red flag about Mr. Dunlap I was able to find is that the very same school year Trenny disappeared, he resigned from his job at Bearden High School. He and his wife moved away from the area, and not to just like a short move to a neighboring town. They moved to Oregon, clear across the country. Thousands of miles away from Tennessee.
But even as suspicious as that looks, Dunlap’s ex-wife told Laura Riste that their move happened not because he was guilty of doing anything to Trenny, but because he’d had a mental breakdown after she disappeared. He had a really hard time coping with the fact that a student had gone missing under his supervision as a teacher on a field trip. He was plagued with the guilt of realizing in hindsight he may have half-hazardly planned the entire trip. According to his ex-wife, Mr. Dunalp’s mental health in 1976 was in a rough spot after serving in the Vietnam War and it declined after Trenny disappeared.
According to other media reports, Mr. Dunlap was considered a suspect just like Robert Simpson, but not a real serious one. Law enforcement has never released any formal statements saying they had any reason to suspect him more than anyone else who was on the field trip that day. By all accounts, students at the school liked him and no one thought he could be involved in hurting Trenny.
The last theory that some journalists and investigators have looked into at length is a scenario that maybe Trenny accidentally died on the hike in the presence of a small number of classmates and they all made a decision to cover it up.
After all, we are talking about high school students.
I think it’s completely within the realm of possibility that a prank or something against Trenny went wrong and she ended up dead.
Laura Riste who has researched this case extensively is convinced that a group covering up Trenny’s death could be true.
She’s conducted a lot of interviews with Trenny’s classmates and people from Knoxville over the years and they all think people know much more than they’re willing to share.
Laura wrote on her investigative blog that every time she or Trenny’s sister Tina pressed people in the town who were teenagers in 1976 about Trenny’s case, they told them to drop their investigation. Laura herself has received numerous threats for pursuing her research and interviews.
The one thing that convinces Laura that several of Trenny’s classmates may be involved in what happened to her is a nugget of information she received from Tina years after Trenny vanished.
Tina told Laura that a few days after Trenny disappeared, some of her jewelry surfaced. The pieces were a star-shaped pendant necklace and ring that had semi-precious sapphires and diamonds in them.
According to Trenny’s family, she was wearing those two pieces of jewelry the day of the field trip. According to Tina, the jewelry ended up in the possession of a girl who was a sophomore at Bearden High in 1976.
It’s unclear how the girl got the jewelry, but when the Gibson family asked for an explanation and the items back, the girl never returned it to them or explained how she got ahold of the necklace and ring.
For whatever reason, law enforcement has never said if investigators followed up on this lead.
Whether the mysterious vanishing of Trenny Gibson fits one of these many theories, may never be known.
Her body has never turned up. The truth of whatever happened to her may forever be buried in the Great Smoky Mountains and a predator could have gotten away with the perfect crime.
Park Predators is an audiochuck Original Podcast.
Research and writing by Delia D’Ambra with writing assistance from executive producer Ashley Flowers.
Sound design by David Flowers.
You can find all of the source material for this episode on our website, Parkpredators.com.
So what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve? *howl*