So what happened to her?


The two main theories presented by the FBI, who entered the investigation on October 12, 1976, were the following:


1.  Trenny was abducted and taken out of the park, likely taken at the place where Andrews Bald Trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail. She was then hidden someplace (possibly the fog-shrouded tower on Clingman's Dome) until it was safe to walk unseen  to the spot on the road where the dogs had tracked her.  From here she was taken out of the Park by vehicle.


2. Trenny, while walking ahead of her classmates, became lost. She may have followed the Appalachian Trail by mistake and made her way to the tower on Clingman's Dome.  Seeing headlights, she made her way to the road.  Instead of help, she was either abducted or met with some other kind of foul play.


Kelvin Bowman


Kelvin Bowman was a student at Bearden High.  On the evening of October 11,1975, almost a year to the day before Trenny's disappearance, Kelvin was prowling around on the Gibson's front lawn.  Hope Gibson, hearing the noise, got a gun, and ended up shooting Kelvin in the foot.



Kelvin was arrested, tried and sentenced to time in a correctional institution.  He had allegedly made threats to kill Trenny once he got out.  Some of the students claimed that they had noticed Kelvin following the bus to the mountains that day by car.  Frank Hall, Bearden High's principal refutes this, claiming that he was in class that day.  Wayne Dunlap was adamant that no cars followed the bus and none of the students were aware of the destination of the bus prior to its departure.


Robert Simpson


Robert Simpson was a year older than Trenny and was a friend of Robert, Trenny's older brother.  He had a car and he and Trenny often went for short rides together, to West Town Mall and other places.  It is said that Robert was very fond of Trenny, but it is not known if they were ever a couple.


Trenny had shared a seat on the bus with Robert on the way to the Park that day.  She was also wearing his heavy brown plaid CPO jacket when she disappeared.   On the trip, it was Robert that she had spent most of her time with, and after she left his company to return to the bus, he claimed that he had gone tracking a bear. 


Later some of the students on the trip had told Mr. Gibson that Trenny's hair comb was found in Robert's car.  Trenny was known to never be without that comb, she carried it in the right hip pocket of her jeans.  There is no record that this was ever investigated further.



On two occasions when the Gibson's were in the Park searching for Trenny, Robert Simpson came by the residence and told Tina Gibson (Trenny's younger sister) that "If Kelvin Bowman has Trenny, he will kill her.  If he doesn't have her, I think she might have run off with some horny hitchhiker".

Photo courtesy of

In the above photo of the observation tower on Clingman's Dome, you can see a cavity at the base of the tower.  Could Trenny and/or her captors have taken refuge here?  In the heavy mist, fog and rain they may have escaped detection long enough to leave the area. 

Stanley comb similar to the one Trenny always carried with her

Tina Gibson, Trenny's sister

Robert Simpson

Kelvin Bowman

Ronnie Joiner

The Outdoor Club at Bearden 1976

Hunting and Fishing Club at Bearden 1976

Adidas Shoes- Trenny was wearing a pair of the identical sneakers when she disappeared.

Soles of Adidas Shoes- identical shoe prints with the circular and lined pattern were found at the Double Springs shelter. The shoe prints were from a smaller sized shoe, quite possibly the ones Trenny was wearing October 8, 1976.

Principal Frank Hall


02.06.2022 22:06

Rodney Holley

Both FBI theorys think she was abducted or met with foul play. Which is probably what happened. It's hard to believe this wasn't solved and "Tracking a bear" Lol....come on....Seriously? Red flag.

18.03.2022 07:12


Did LE do background checks on the students who went on the trip, ie, incidents that were hushed up because ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘ they were just a child and didn’t know what they were doing’?

21.01.2022 05:05


I heard on another podcast/YouTube that the girl that had the jewelry and never gave it back has since died. Was suspected foul play involved in her death?

22.04.2021 19:48


Clouds at Clingman's Dome can be so thick that you can only see a few feet away. Also, Tina has died. Only one sibling not born in Trenny's lifetime and mom are still living.

12.03.2022 13:42


Miracle, the survivor brother, was alive when Trenny was taken.

01.01.2021 23:30


I heard a girl later had her sapphire necklace. This is as strange as Simpson having her comb. Do we know if any of the students she was with before going off alone were this girl with her necklace?

01.01.2021 02:26


It was the Simpson guy, obviously.

10.03.2020 01:47


Maybe this organization can help??

31.07.2019 16:26


Not the best decision, guessing he was eat up with it, could've been beaver hunting and have some tang.

30.07.2019 21:20


But the million dollar question, he was alone with her, and he decided to quote chase after a bear, I guess his priorities was wacked.

30.07.2019 19:26


For Robert to say that Trenny ran off with some “horny hitchhiker”, it almost seems as though he’s suffering from sour grapes. Like he was let down, so it would make him feel better to discredit her.

25.05.2019 02:32


Tell me it was just a dream. 10/08/76 3:15.

10.04.2019 22:01


After she walked off from Simpson, he went off to track a bear? Not likely.

29.05.2020 15:52

Matt Walker

Why would he specifically say “I was tracking a bear” though? I think, having done something to Trenny, he was trying to introduce the idea there was a bear in area and imply she may’ve run into it.

11.04.2019 02:18


No, but what he really went off to do that October day, 42 years ago, is still a mystery. At least it is to some, others have unraveled the web a long time ago, and are waiting for the day to come.

18.03.2019 22:03


Anything is possible. For all intents and purposes, from what I’ve been able to ascertain all that Dunlap was guilty of was a poorly supervised field trip. He was also close to some of his students.

18.03.2019 21:44


Has anyone looked into the teacher? It seems kind of strange that no one knows where they are going except him. Is it possible that he and maybe someone else had something to do with her disapearance?

25.03.2019 15:30


The guy definitely had his share of “pets” among the students in his class, often hanging out with them after school hours. I went to Bearden and was in his class as well as on the field trip.

07.03.2019 18:43


I amshocked since I read the coment that Robert Simpson said to Tina. It is very vulgar, as if he's trying to make her look bad... Rejection is bitter, if you know what I mean.

26.08.2020 16:27


I take that back - I heard it was Robert Gibson from another forum, which seems to be a mistake - it was Robert Simpson. Really gross to say and also he had her comb, but never mentioned it.

31.05.2020 16:46


Sweet Sue, is it your belief that Robert Simpson raped Trenny and then murdered her? If that's what you believe, then what do you think he did with her body?

02.04.2019 20:08

Sweet Sue

I think it was said both to deflect attention from himself and to make Trenny look like a tramp. There was debauchery on that trip that day, but Trenny wasn’t involved in it. She was a victim of it.

17.09.2018 18:31


I can’t speak for 1976, but it’s likely the quietest one (trail) was chosen. Although with the inclement weather, it was likely that the Park was quiet.

17.09.2018 18:28


You got three popular off road trails, two East of the park close by Piegon Forge, Rich Mountain Road, and Sand Mines/ Royal Blue, but the popular trail is Hurricane Creek, around Asheville NC.

17.09.2018 18:19


That’s a possible route that they may have taken by Jeep. The Jeep would have had to meet them somewhere, because Trenny’s scent was detected as far as the road. A few involved, just like I thought

17.09.2018 18:16

Trek On

Yes, the Person Branch Road, they is a jeep trail, using the river bed out of Cades Cove, and coming out on US 129.

17.09.2018 18:09


I wonder if that trail is still used?

17.09.2018 18:07

Trek On

Answering, your question Buck, that's the Fork Ridge Trail.

17.09.2018 17:58


Like an old trail, or a Jeep trail or something? I’ve always been of the mind that a 4 wheel drive vehicle had to have been used if Trenny is still in the Park. Mud, frost, leaf litter, etc.

17.09.2018 17:55


True, at one time they was a trail, that connected to the Clingmans Dome Road, I've forgotten the name of the trail.

17.09.2018 17:50


Too obvious. Even if they urinated there, the dogs would have still picked up Trenny being there. No, they took her at least to the road, maybe someone met them them.

17.09.2018 17:47


Adding to the discussion, from the other day. The room could've been used as a quick burial site, until they got the means to move her, using the Person Branch Road, comes to mind.

16.09.2018 15:18


Yes, it does need looked into further, never remember the room being mentioned before, plus that's very close to the trail, to Lake Fontana.

16.09.2018 15:10


I know Trenny’s scent was tracked to the base of the tower, by different teams of tracking dogs. Not sure if this room was searched, though. Will have to investigate.

16.09.2018 14:43


Yes, never knew myself, that the room, was located under the ramp.

16.09.2018 14:34


This photo of the observation tower with the room at the base was a great find by a fellow board member. First time I’ve ever seen a room at the base of the tower.