DELPHI, Ind. — Three years ago, two young girls went for a walk in northwest Indiana. What happened on that unusually warm February day remains a mystery to everyone but Abigail Williams, Liberty German and the man who murdered them.
February 13, 2017:
Abby and Libby were dropped off at the trail near Delphi’s scenic Monon High Bridge, an abandoned railroad bridge over Deer Creek.
Hours later, when they failed to meet their ride home at that same location it would kick off a series of events that would forever change the tiny town of Delphi, Indiana.
Despite having a video, audio and two sketches from potential witnesses in the area, investigators have yet to find the man responsible for their murders.
"(We) thought we were going to get the clues that we needed and be done with this in four or five days," Indiana State Police (ISP) Detective Jerry Holeman told WRTV in 2019. "We realized that this is a totally different type of investigation.”
But a killer is still out there.
ISP Sgt. Kim Riley says investigators have interviewed over 1,000 people, including possible witnesses, suspects and anyone who may have information about suspicious activity on the day the girls went missing.
To this day, he says between six and eight people work on Abby and Libby's case each day throughout the week.
But despite all of the evidence released to the public, investigators have always been open about the fact that they are holding some of it close to their vests with the goal of having information that only the killer would know when they finally arrest him.
Three years in, here's everything we know about the investigation into the murders of Abby and Libby:
It was an unseasonably warm day and an unexpected day off from school when friends Abigail and Liberty decided to visit the trails near the Monon High Bridge and take some photographs.
A family member dropped the girls off that afternoon with a plan to pick them up a few hours later. When that pickup time arrived, the girls were nowhere to be found.
Calls to Libby’s cell phone went unanswered and eventually straight to voicemail.
First, the family began to search. When they were still missing later that afternoon, family members contacted the sheriff’s office for help.
Sheriff Tobe Leazenby told WRTV that evening that they had no reason to believe the girls were in danger. At the time, crews thought the girls had simply gotten lost on the trails and were unable to find their way back.
Throughout the evening, dozens of volunteers joined the search for the girls.
The only real clue of their location was a photo Libby had snapped of Abby walking along the bridge and posted to her social media.
As the sun went down and the temperature dropped, the search continued through midnight, when it was officially suspended, although some family and friends did continue to search into the overnight hours.
That next morning would bring a discovery that none of them were prepared for.
Tragedy near Deer Creek
The search for Abby and Libby resumed on Valentine’s Day morning, Feb. 14, 2017.
Crews widened the scope of their search as soon as the sun came up, wandering further from the abandoned railroad tracks and into wooded areas below the bridge and along Deer Creek.
The official search had barely resumed when one of the search teams made a gruesome discovery.
The bodies of Abby and Libby were found on the back end of a private piece of property, less than a mile from where they were dropped off the day before.
READ | A look at the property where two missing teen girls were found dead
No details surrounding how the girls were found or their cause of death have ever been released.
“I can’t say there’s not a threat to the community,” Sgt. Riley told WRTV at the time. "We have not caught the person yet. Is the person still in the community? We don’t know.”
In the two years since Abby and Libby were murdered, the evidence released to the public has remained minimal.
The key evidence in the case has been video taken by Libby, likely in the moments before her death. Although investigators have never given the exact context to the images or audio taken from the video, they have said they were taken during “suspected criminal activity.”
In the days following the girls’ murders, Libby was heralded a “hero” by state police for having the presence of mind to begin recording at the time she did.
Investigators have released two grainy images from that video that shows a man we’re to believe was behind the girls on that bridge, a short clip of that man walking, an audio recording of a man — presumably the same one — saying, “Guys. Down the hill” and two sketches from possible witnesses in the area the day the girls were murdered.
Another key piece of the puzzle that investigators have released is that they believe the man who murdered Abby and Libby was either from Delphi or was familiar with Delphi either because he works there or has other connections.
“I’ve walked across the high bridge myself. It’s 65-70 feet off the river deck. It hasn’t had a train on it since 1929," Carter said during a press conference on April 22, 2019. "The ties are starting to rot. It sways back and forth and it’s not something you can just jump on and walk straight across if you’ve never done it before. I decided I was going to take the riverbank going back, I didn’t. That wasn’t the first time he’s been on that high bridge, my opinion, again that’s my opinion. I experienced it and I kept a piece of the high bridge and I’ll carry it with me until we find out who this is."
The two grainy photos
Police released the images they say were taken straight from Libby’s cell phone, on Feb. 15, 2017 — the day after the girls’ bodies were found.
Both images, shown below, depict the same white man wearing blue jeans, a blue coat/jacket and a hoodie.
Days after Abby and Libby were found dead, police officially named that man a “person of interest” in their murders.
The context surrounding the images, which were stills from a moving video, has never been given.
The two audio clips
A brief audio clip, which police have always said was just a small clip of what they have from Libby’s phone, was released on Feb. 22, 2017.
The audio of a man’s voice saying,“down the hill” was seconds long and was released free of video.
Police have only said that the video it came from captured the man telling the girls to go “down the hill” during possible “criminal activity.” They have never elaborated further on that description.
More than two years later, on April 22, 2019, ISP released a new piece of audio that is a slightly extended version of the initial clip and includes the word “guys” followed by “down the hill.”
Although the audio may appear to be a different voice, ISP was clear when the department released it that the extended clip was all the same person.
"Please keep in mind that the person talking is one person and is the person on the bridge with the girls," Carter said. "This is not two people speaking. Please listen to it very, very carefully."
Listen to that extended clip below:
The video clip
At that same April 22 press conference, ISP also released never-before-seen video of “bridge guy” that was taken by Libby on the day that she died. The video shows the suspect walking along the bridge behind Abby and Libby.
“When you see the video, watch the person’s mannerisms as they walk,” Carter said when they released it. “Do you recognize the mannerisms as being someone that you might know?”
Carter also said because they know where the man was walking on the bridge, his walk is not natural because of the spacing between the ties and the deterioration in that area of the bridge.
Watch the video clip below:
The two sketches
Five months into the investigation, ISP released its first sketch and description of a suspect.
That first composite sketch was created after police said they received information from witnesses who were in the area at the time Abby and Libby went missing.
At the time, the suspect was described as a white man between 5-feet 6-inches tall and 5-feet 10-inches tall, weighing 180 to 220 pounds with reddish brown hair and an unknown eye color.
In that first sketch, shown below, detectives say the man’s hat was changed to make his facial features more recognizable.
A second sketch was released at the press conference held on April 22, 2019.
That sketch, which appears to be of an entirely different person, is now believed to be the main person of interest in the murders of Abby and Libby.
Along with the new sketch, police also updated their description of the suspect to be a man between 18 and 40 years old, who could appear much younger than he actually is.
"When we decided that, through the information we received, that we were going to release the second sketch I don’t believe the individual knew we were going to do that. So, it was really, really important. I think he was probably there and/or watching, simply because he thought we were on the wrong path," Carter said when the second sketch was released.
The sketches were composed from witness accounts of two separate individuals who were in the area on the day of the murders. ISP later revealed that the second sketch, released more than two years after the girls were killed, was actually the first sketch they had drawn up.
They also say they now believe that the second sketch is a more accurate depiction of the suspect, although the actual suspect may likely be a mix between both sketches.
"The sketch isn’t a photograph. A sketch is a sketch and that’s really important for everybody to understand," Carter said. "I believe that the individual, when we catch him, it will be a combination of those two.”
During the press conference in April 2019, ISP also requested the public's help to identify the driver of a vehicle that was parked near the Monon High Bridge on the day Abby and Libby went missing.
Carter says a vehicle was parked at the old CPS/DCS Welfare building in Delphi on the east side of County Road 300 North, next to the Hoosier Heartland Highway between noon and 5 p.m. February 14, 2017. No details about that vehicle were released, including make and model, color or license plate number.
“We believe you are hiding in plain sight,” Carter said. “For more than two years…. We likely have interviewed you or someone close to you. We know that this is about power to you, and you want to know what we know – that one day, you will.”
So far, no additional information has been released and ISP has still not identified the vehicle or a possible person who may have been driving it.
Quelling internet rumors
Abby and Libby's deaths quickly became an unsolved mystery that was thrust into the national spotlight.
While police continue their search for the Delphi killer, people across the country have been coming up with their own theories about who is responsible. Investigators say speculations, rumors and comparisons can actually do more to hinder the investigation than to help it.
In the past three years, only one person of interest has ever been named. But during the one-year press conference marking the Delphi murders, state police said Daniel Nations was "not someone we care a whole lot about at this moment in time."
Since then, no other potential suspects have been named by investigators.
READ | Investigators say internet rumors can hinder search for Delphi killer
The tips keep coming
Although it has been three long years since that warm February day, ISP says it still receives new tips about Abby and Libby’s murders almost daily.
Every one of those tips and potential leads that are called in and emailed to the Delphi tip lines — more than 40,000 so far — is vetted by investigators.
Every tip received is entered into an FBI system called “Pyramid.” That system stores information like names, descriptions and motives so it can be cross-referenced with other tips locally and across the country to find any possible connections.
The process is always working, comparing tips received about the Delphi murders with hundreds of other cases and tips. Investigators say they have worked a number of tips and leads that have come directly from that system or the tip line, although they say both have been able to connect dots they had no idea existed.
How you can help
Keeping track of those tips is a major undertaking. Investigators say the more information a tipster can give them, the better, because the more information they can enter into the system – the more potential connections can be made and checked.
Investigators have shared insight into what makes a good, solid tip.
That includes things like:
- Suspect name
- Date of birth or approximate age
- Physical description (i.e. height, weight, hair color, eye color)
- Specific address or location last seen
- Specific vehicle descriptions (i.e. license plate, year, make, model, color)
- Specific reason for tip (i.e. Why could they be the suspect?
- Motivation for crime
- Connection to Delphi
Tips can remain anonymous.
The reward for information leading to the arrest of the Delphi killer is over $250,000.
Tip information contacts
Tip Line: (844) 459-5786
Indiana State Police: (800) 382-7537
This story was originally published by Katie Cox at WRTV.