DELPHI, Ind. (WISH) — Three years ago, two teenage girls went for a walk and never came home. Abigail Williams and Liberty “Libby” German went out on the Monon High Bridge trail, and what happened next is mostly a mystery.
On Feb. 13, 2017, something terrible happened in the woods off a trail. It would be the next morning, Valentine’s Day, when searchers found the bodies of the two young girls. Indiana State Police released a sketch and told everyone to look for that man. Tips poured in and seasons passed.
“I just hope that one day I can look into the eyes of a murderer and ask him why?” said ISP Superintendent Doug Carter on the one-year anniversary. “I believe that we will.”
But the public still had questions about what really happened. Experts, including a retired FBI agent who spoke with News 8, weighed in on the case.
“Usually by now we would hear about the cause of death and the mode of death, such as homicide by strangulation, by stabbing, whatever it is,” said retired FBI agent Michael Tabman.
Police talked to several different men but never made an arrest. As the public looked for the man in the sketch, the case evolved. A few weeks after the second anniversary of their killing, there was an extraordinary turn in the investigation. State Police released another sketch remarkably different from the first, seemingly a different person than the first sketch.
“To the killer, who may be in this room, we believe you are hiding in plain sight,” Carter said the day they released the second sketch.
While the public became frustrated at a lack of information and lack of resolution, the families yearned for justice.
“I’m just reaching out to them to help put closure,” said Mike Patty, Libby’s grandfather. “This is a hurdle in a path that we’re going down that…the pain will always be there forever, but this is a hurdle that needs to be knocked down and with the help of law enforcement, I truly believe it will.”
Police received tens of thousands of tips but are still hoping someone will call in with the right tip.That person could get the reward – which is now more than a $250,000.
Submit a tip via email at Abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com or call 1-844-459-5786
Timeline of events
- Feb. 13, 2017 – Abby and Libby are dropped off at the Monon High Bridge Trail and are not there when family comes to pick them up.
- Feb. 14, 2017 – The girls’ bodies are found.
- Feb. 15, 2017 – Police release photos of a man wanted for questioning, later considered the main suspect.
- Feb. 22, 2017 – Police release an audio file they say may contain the suspect’s voice saying “down the hill.”
- May 13, 2017 – A celebration of life is held for the girls.
- June 16, 2017 – Police reach 18,000 tips received.
- July 18, 2017 – Police add staff to analyze the high volume of tips.
- Oct. 3, 2017 – Indiana State Police visit Colorado to investigate Daniel Nations after receiving a tip.
- Nov. 11, 2017 – Carroll County Prosecutor Rob Ives announces he’s stepping down.
- Jan. 1, 2018 – New prosecutor Nicholas McLeland takes the post.
- Jan. 16, 2018 – The owner of the property where the girls’ bodies were found is ordered to home detention.
- Jan. 17, 2018 – The families of the girls give interviews with national news outlets in hopes of bringing attention to the case.
- Feb. 13, 2018 – ISP superintendent speaks on murders one year later.
- April 22, 2019 – ISP releases new sketch and video clip.
- April 24, 2019 – ISP clarifies reasons for release of second sketch.
- April 30, 2019 – The sheriff asks to stop post images of possible suspects.
- July 10, 2019 – Libby’s sister addresses rumors during a livestream.
- Jan. 8, 2020 – Delphi gets a new police chief.
‘Somebody knows what happened that day’
This bridge was one of the last things Abby Williams and Libby German saw before they were murdered.
In the winter, the trail is not a welcoming place. The trees are bare and there is no forgiveness coming from the cold gray stones of the abandoned railroad bed.
It was on this bridge that Libby German recorded the man police believe killed the two girls. Police have released less than two seconds of video of him walking, along with audio recording of him saying three words: “down the hill.”
Ahead of the third anniversary of the girls’ murders, News 8 talked to Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter if he was going to release any more video.
Here is part of the interview between News 8’s Richard Essex and Supt. Carter:
- Essex: Are you going to release any more video?
- Carter: Not right now.
- Essex: At what point do you think you need to release more video?
- Carter: When we think there will be value. Remember: We have a voice, we have a picture and we have the video. I’m not sure what value there is in releasing anything else. I want the killer to know we know more than he thinks we know.
According to police, the killer is a man who knows his way around Delphi. He may work there, live there or visit on a regular basis and may even know the girls or their families.
ISP on the Delphi case
Abby Williams’ mother Anna has heard that comment in the past. She says Delphi is a close-knit community, and people tend to know each other very well.
“In my opinion, when they say there is a good chance that we know who they are or the families, it is 100% probable if they are from this area, that we have crossed paths. Whether they have crossed paths, whether they knew the girls directly I couldn’t say,” said Williams.
Police have not released publicly how the girls were murdered, if they were assaulted or if investigators recovered DNA. The crime scene was nearly the size of football field. Whatever did happen to Abby and Libby along the Monon Trail bridge in Delphi has left a mark on Carter.
Carter says he knows that whatever evil was committed along the bridge is stuck in the memory of the killer, and that he may have shared his memory.
“I believe with every ounce of my soul that somebody is living with this person, and they know it. And I said that because, if you thought that anyone in your family, your son, you dad, your brother, your uncle, your neighbor, whoever that is,” said Carter.
Anna Williams, Abby’s mother, echoed the sentiment.
“Somebody knows what happened that day. We are waiting, we are not as patient. We want answers and somebody knows and we need them to call that tip line. We need them to do what they should have done nearly three years ago,” said Williams.
Police are in an extraordinary situation: They have video and audio of the murderer, have received nearly 50,000 tips and interviewed hundreds, including — they believe — the killer or someone he knows well.
“We have either interviewed him or we have heard of him,” said Carter.
For the first two years of the investigation, one sketch was the face of the case.
“I know we have received some criticism, and I know this is coming, so I will just jump right on it. And I should have been the person that received the criticism when we released the second sketch. You know, we were a year and a half in, two years and two months in, and on the April 22, 2019 press conference and I’m very unapologetic about that,” said Carter.
Three years ago, a monster dressed in a blue coat, jeans and a hat emerged from the trail and killed two teenage girls. Where is that monster today?
‘Her room is pretty much the same as it was when she was here’
Libby German wrote down her life’s plan in a letter to herself in sixth grade. Her grandparents, Mike and Becky Patty, showed it to News 8, highlighting the part where she said she wanted to someday work for the FBI so she could solve crimes and help people.
She wrote that letter two years before she and her best friend, Abby Williams, were murdered in Delphi three years ago. The Pattys find looking at that letter more bittersweet each year. They find it — in their words — ironic that Libby is helping solve her own crime with the video she recorded on her cellphone moments before she and Abby were killed.
Families on the Delphi case
The girls would be juniors in high school now. Anna Williams always imagined this time in her life would be busy with planning prom and talking about college. Instead she is living in a neverending nightmare.
“There are days I spend thinking about that as opposed to what we don”t have anymore. It’s what I’m not gonna have,” cried Williams.
She can’t help but think ahead to next year when the girls would have been graduating. Williams said she struggles knowing there will be two empty chairs at the class of 2021 graduation ceremony. She doesn’t think she will have the strength to be there.
Both families tell News 8 that time will continue to pass, but they will never move on. They agreed that is one reason they have hardly touched either girl’s room.
“We haven’t thrown anything away that was Libby’s. In fact, her room is pretty much the same as it was when she was here,” said Mike Patty.
“Because the process of going through all that and deciding what do with what’s left of her life isn’t something I want to have to do. Ever. Ever, ever. But there will be a day that’s going to happen but it’s probably not going to be until this is over. Things will be stuck exactly as they were until it’s over,” said Williams.
The families have hope the day for closure will come when investigators find Abby and Libby’s killer. But they agree that day still may not be enough.
“Even after we catch this guy and after we get an arrest and a conviction. That’s just a chapter. There’s no closure because she’s still gone,” said Mike Patty.
Delphi community struggles to heal as case remains unsolved
The community in Delphi is starting to heal from the tragedy, but they say what happened to Abby and Libby has changed their city and lives forever. It is nearly impossible to go anywhere in Delphi without seeing some kind of reminder of the girls.
“I think there are still people upset because they haven’t been able to solve it,” said Randy Myers, who lives in Carroll County.
Delphi community members reflect on the case
People who have lived in Delphi for decades say no matter when or if the case is solved, Delphi will never be the same.
“You know, it is just not the same as it used to be. We used to never lock our cars, never lock our doors and that has all changed,” said Gloria Mills, who has lived in Delphi for 30 years.
“I grew up in town and nobody ever worried about anything. But now you are a lot more careful. You think about it before you do something,” said Myers.
Over the last three years, people in the community say they have tried to heal. Some say they have tried to forget what happened to be able to move forward, while others say they won’t be able to get closure until this mystery is solved. But regardless of how they are healing, people in the community say Delphi will forever be marked by these murders.
“You could sense it. There is a thickness in the air in the city of Delphi. If you go to a grocery store, you go to a restaurant, you could feel it. Some of that has lifted,” said Delphi Mayor Shane Evans.
Since the girls were murdered three years ago, Carroll County has seen a nearly 20% increase in the number of people getting a concealed carry license.
“I think we will always be on guard now because we have realized that something like this can happen in such a small community,” said Mills.
The paranoia created by such a senseless, brutal act is still very real.
“There are still occasions that you see somebody in town that you have never seen before that may resemble the sketch, that gives you a little hesitation,” said Evans.
The community has come to terms with what happened but now, more than anything, they just want this tragic chapter to be closed.
“People just want it to be solved. You know, so that the family can get closure and we can feel safer in our own community,” said Mills.
A memorial marking the three years since the girls’ deaths is planned for 5 p.m. Thursday at the Delphi United Methodist Church.