Murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German
|Date||February 13, 2017|
|Time||2:07 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (EST)|
|Location||Near Monon High Bridge,|
Deer Creek Township,
Carroll County, Indiana, U.S.
|Burial||IOOF Memorial Gardens (Liberty German)|
|Coroner||Jordan Cree, Carroll County|
|Suspects||1 unidentified male (as per ISP)|
On February 14, 2017, the bodies of Abigail Williams (June 23, 2003 – February 13, 2017) and Liberty German (December 27, 2002 – February 13, 2017) 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 video and audio recording of an individual believed to be the girls' killer were found on German's smartphone. Despite thousands of tips that have been sent to the police and the circulation of the recordings of the suspect, no arrest in the case has been made.
At 1:35 p.m. on Monday, February 13, 2017, 13-year-old Abigail Joyce "Abby" Williams and 14-year-old Liberty Rose Lynn "Libby" German were dropped off by German's older sister, Kelsi German, on County Road 300 North, east of the Hoosier Heartland Highway. The girls were hiking on the Monon High Bridge over Deer Creek, among woodland in remote Deer Creek Township. At 2:07 p.m., Libby posted a photo of Abby walking the bridge; after this they were not heard from again. They were reported missing at 5:30 p.m. after they failed to meet Liberty's father at 3:15 p.m. The families initially searched for the girls themselves before calling the police. 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 Monon High Bridge. The bodies were found on the north bank of Deer Creek.
Police have not 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 appears to capture a Caucasian male, 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 suspect, 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 presence of mind and fortitude to secretly record the exchange. 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 conference held on April 22. 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. Supt. Carter states that because of the deteriorated condition of the bridge, the suspect is not walking naturally due to the spacing between the ties.
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, is now considered secondary; by contrast, the clean-shaven individual of the newly revised composite is the primary sketch of the prime suspect. Police say this person may range from age 18 to 40, but caution that his "youthful appearance" could make him look younger than his true age.
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.
Persons of interest
On July 23, 2019, Paul Etter was wanted for the kidnapping and rape of a 26-year-old woman on June 22 in Tippecanoe County. Etter was one of multiple suspects being investigated for the Williams and German murders, according to Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby. Five days later, on July 28, 2019, Etter was surrounded by police, and after a five-hour stand-off, he died by suicide. Investigators received a tip about Etter in the Delphi murders, but it's unclear if or when authorities would be able to determine if he's the killer. [further explanation needed]
Daniel J. 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 was noticed by police, who subsequently discovered 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 spokesman 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 back in Indiana. On January 24, Nations was transferred to Indiana officials' custody on an unrelated charge: failure to register as a sex offender. In early February 2018, authorities said that Nations was no longer considered an active person of interest in the Delphi murders.
Thomas 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. He was sentenced to life without parole.
Charles 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; this was, however, before the updated composite had been released.
On April 27, 2021, Indiana State Police detectives named James Brian Chadwell II as a new person of interest in the Delphi murders.
On December 6, 2021 at approximately 9:50pm, Sgt. Jeremey Piers, Public Information Officer with Indiana State Police, announced the discovery of a fictitious online persona, “Anthony_Shots”. Sgt Piers said this profile had been uncovered during the course of the investigation into the murders and was believed to have been used in 2016-2017. The press release said they were asking for anyone who had social media contact with a user by that name between 2016 and 2017 to come forward. They asked anyone coming forward to utilize the Abby and Libby Tip Line. A day or two later, ISP released an additional statement related to this profile and confirmed that the account is alleged to have belonged to a 27-year-old man named Kegan Anthony Kline, of Peru, Indiana. At the time of the press release, Kline was being held in the Miami County Jail for 30 alleged crimes including child exploitation, possession of child pornography, child solicitation for sexual intercourse and obstruction of justice. Kline set up the fake social media accounts, in which he used photos of an unknown male model, to catfish potential underage victims. Kelsi German, Libby's sister, said of Kline being a potential suspect, "I think in the past when there were names put out in the media that was more the media putting them out there, but I think this is the first time we've ever seen police put out any sort of name about a potential suspect." German also said that she long believed that social media did not have anything to do with the case but said she has now reconsidered things saying "Libby never told me anything about anybody contacting her online. But since the latest release happened, it just made me think that even if she had told us or if we would have said something, then she'd have likely kept messaging anyway because teenagers like to hide things, unfortunately."
In response to a request from German's mother, 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.
In August 2017, the families announced their plans to build a sports complex for Delphi in the memory of the girls. A non-profit organization, L & A Park Foundation, was formed to "celebrate and commemorate the lives of Libby German and Abby Williams by creating a place for the appreciation of nature, art, play, and athleticism for generations to come." A site was procured a mile north of Delphi, and in the years following the girls' deaths continued progress has been made in the development of Abby and Libby Memorial Park. In 2020, the L & A Park foundation was named a recipient of the NBA All-Star 2021 Legacy Grant.
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