Murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German
Liberty German (left) and Abigail Williams (right)
|Date||February 13, 2017|
|Time||1:45–5:30 p.m. (EST)|
|Location||Near Monon High Bridge,|
Deer Creek Township,
Carroll County, Indiana, U.S.
|Coroner||Jordan Cree, Carroll County|
|Suspects||1 unidentified male (as per ISP)|
On February 14, 2017, the bodies of Abigail Williams and Liberty German were discovered near the Monon High Bridge Trail, which is part of the Delphi Historic Trails in Delphi, Indiana, United States, after the young girls had disappeared from the same trail the previous day. The murders have received significant media coverage because a photo and audio recording of an individual believed to be the girls' murderer was found on German's smartphone. Despite the audio and video recordings of the suspect that have been circulated and the more than 26,000 tips that police have received, no arrest in the case has been made.
At 1:35 p.m. on February 13, 2017, 13-year-old Abigail J. "Abby" Williams and 14-year-old Liberty Rose Lynn "Libby" German were dropped off by German's older sister, Kelsi German, at a trail-head on County Road 300 North, west of the Hoosier Heartland Highway. The girls were hiking on the Monon High Bridge over Deer Creek, among woodland in remote Deer Creek Township, when they were last seen. They were reported missing at 5:30 p.m. when they failed to meet family at the end of the trail. Authorities who quickly searched the area did not initially suspect foul play in the disappearance. However, this changed when the bodies of the girls were found around noon the next day, about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) east of the abandoned deck girder bridge. The bodies were about 50 feet (15 m) from the north bank of Deer Creek.
Police have not publicly stated nor released details of how the girls were murdered. As early as February 15, 2017, Indiana State Police began circulating a still image of an individual reportedly seen on the Monon High Bridge Trail near where the two friends were slain; the grainy photograph appearing to capture a Caucasian male, with hands in pockets, walking on the rail bridge, head down, toward the girls. A few days later, the person in the photograph was named the prime suspect in the double-homicide.
On February 22, law enforcement released an audio recording where the voice of the assailant, though in some degree muffled, is heard to say, "Down the hill." It was at this news conference that officials credited the source of the audio and imagery to German's smartphone, and, further, regarded her as a hero for having had the uncanny foresight and fortitude to record the exchange in secret. Police indicated that additional evidence from the phone had been secured, but that they did not release it so as not to "compromise any future trial." By this time, the reward offered in the case was set at $41,000.
On July 17, officers distributed a composite sketch of someone who, at that time in the investigation, was sought as a person of prime interest in the murders. It had apparently been drawn by police from eyewitnesses to a certain hiker of the Delphi Historic Trails on the day that the girls vanished.
On April 19, 2019, Indiana State Police announced a "new direction" in the case. On behalf of State Police and the Multi-Agency Taskforce, Superintendent Doug Carter released more materials a few days later in a press for tips. The new materials included a short video recording in which the blue-jeaned and jacketed suspect is seen walking along the rail bridge for a little over a second. An updated sketch of the suspect was also unveiled, as well as an extended version of the audio recording, in which a slight rise in the suspect's voice can be detected as he utters the word "Guys...", before the phrase "Down the hill." It was further explained that the previously-released sketch, showing an older man with goatee and cap, depicted a different person of secondary interest; by contrast, the clean-shaven individual of the newly revised composite is the prime suspect. Police say this person may range from his 20s to his 30s, but caution that his "youthful appearance" could make him look younger than his true age.
Also on April 22, law enforcement reached out to the public urging all to
look at the sketch, listen to the audio, watch how this coward walks on the high bridge and send your tip to this email: Abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com.
Investigators revealed they have reason to believe that the suspect might well be hiding in plain sight, and that the person is almost certainly familiar with the area of Delphi, whether it be from living or working there or for another reason. An additional plea was made for help in identifying the driver of a vehicle left abandoned off the Hoosier Heartland Highway in Delphi, at the former Child Services office, between noon and 5 p.m. on the day of the murders.
On July 23, 2019, after receiving a tip, authorities announced that Paul Etter was being considered a suspect in the murders. Etter was wanted for the kidnapping and rape of a 26-year-old woman on June 22 in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Five days later, Etter was surrounded by police, and after a five hour stand-off, Etter killed himself.
Daniel J. Nations
Nations, a registered sex offender from Indiana, was arrested in Woodland Park, Colorado, in September 2017 and charged with threatening strangers on a Monument trail with a hatchet. The expired Indiana plates on the car Nations was driving gave him up to police, who subsequently noticed an outstanding warrant under his name. Fanning public speculation still further, it was reported that a bicyclist had been fatally shot on the same trail at around the time that Nations was purportedly terrifying passersby. An El Paso County Sheriff's official told reporters that, however "many similarities" there were between the cases, he was not at liberty to disclose them, since Indiana investigators did not want any more information released.
On January 5, 2018, Nations was sentenced to three years of probation for threatening members of the public in Colorado; however, he was not released since he had an active warrant out on him from another county, back in Indiana. On January 24, Nations was finally transferred to Indiana officials' custody on an unrelated charge, failure to register as a sex offender. In early February 2018, authorities proclaimed that Nations is no longer considered an active person of interest in the Delphi murders.
Bruce, who formerly worked as a pastor, is charged with fatally shooting one woman and sexually assaulting two others, after having ordered them at gunpoint into the back room of a suburban St. Louis shop for religious supplies. Committed in broad daylight on November 19, 2018, these crimes put Bruce in the spotlight of the press. Some noted his being of similar stature (5-foot-7 to 5-foot-9 inches) to the then-current suspect description in the Delphi slayings; also, his wearing a flat cap and navy-blue jacket during this attack, not unlike the suspect in the Delphi case. Indiana State Police did look into his possible connection in November. On December 4, Bruce was charged with no fewer than 17 felony counts related to the St. Louis case and could receive the death penalty.
Eldridge was arrested on January 8, 2019 in Union City, Indiana, on charges of child molestation and child solicitation. Police in Randolph County alerted the FBI to a potential link between Eldridge and the Delphi murders, on account of his strong resemblance to the suspect sketch, albeit this was before the updated composite had come out.
In August 2017, the families announced their plans to build a million dollar sports complex for Delphi in the memory of the girls. Further, in response to a request from German's mother, countless homeowners across central Indiana have had orange lights installed on their front porches, both to commemorate the girls as well as to indicate that the murderer remains at large.
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