Two missing girls were found dead after they vanished while hiking along an abandoned railroad track in a small Indiana town on Monday.
Police confirmed Wednesday the identities of the two bodies as Liberty “Libby” German, 14, and Abigail “Abby” Williams, 13, and say they are investigating the case as a double homicide. Police have still not released a cause of death.
“This is considered a double homicide investigation, and no further information will be released at this time,” Indiana State Police Sergeant Kim Riley said Wednesday at a press conference.
Later Wednesday, police released photos of a man they are seeking to identify in connection with the case. They have since said they consider him to be the main suspect in the killings.
“We are asking help from the public to help identify him so he can be contacted regarding what he might have seen,” the Indiana State Police said in a press release. You can see the photos below:
The photos were taken from Libby German’s phone, police said. They say she had the presence of mind to record video before her death. Authorities have also released a short audio clip of the suspect saying what they believe to be “down the hill.” You can listen to that clip below:
On Tuesday, Riley said police suspected foul play and were investigating the area where the bodies were found as a crime scene, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Riley said the suspicions arose because of “the way the bodies were found, that’s about all I can say at this time.”
The bodies were found on the edge of the water, upstream, against the flow of the creek, police said.
The girls, from Delphi, in Carroll County, were reported missing by their family on Monday. Hundreds of people, including police, firefighters, family, friends and residents of the surrounding community, searched for the girls into the night Monday and again Tuesday morning. The bodies were found about 12:15 p.m. Tuesday.
The area is known as the Delphi Historic Trails.
“Right now, we are following up on hundreds of hundreds of leads that have come in,” Riley said Wednesday. “There is nobody of interest at this point in time that we can say.”
Police have set up a tip-line for information: 844-459-5786.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Girls Were Dropped Off by Family & Were Reported Missing When They Didn’t Come to be Picked Up
Abby Williams and Libby German were dropped off by family members at trails near the “Monon High Bridge” just east of their hometown of Delphi about 1 p.m. Monday, WTTV-TV reports.
The middle school friends did not have class on Monday because of a snow-day built into the calendar, according to community members.
The girls were supposed to be picked up by family later that afternoon, but did not show up, police said. They were reported missing about 5:30 p.m.
A massive search of the area began, led by local and state police. A drone was used during the search and family members and friends of the girls assisted. A K-9 and dive team were also brought in to help find the girls.
The Delphi Fire Department also assisted in the search, and their headquarters was used as a makeshift command center.
“Having girls of our own, it just hit home,” one of the searchers, Karen Boucher, told the Logansport Pharos-Tribune. “We just wanted to do whatever we could.”
Another searcher, Denise Hoverman, told the newspaper, “Nobody was even talking. It was very somber.”
An Amber Alert was not issued because police said the case did not meet the criteria, which includes knowledge that a child under the age of 18 is in imminent danger and details about a vehicle or person possibly involved in the incident. The local news was notified and information about the girls was distributed online.
“Even if we would have put an Amber Alert out, it wouldn’t have done this case any good,” Riley said at a press conference. “The short period of time and the location where the bodies were found, it would not have helped us in finding them.”
Police initially said there was no foul play suspected, but that changed a day later.
On Tuesday, police announced they found two bodies in Delphi, along Deer Creek, about a half mile from the railroad bridge where the girls had last been seen.
“It’s been a long several hours,” Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It’s played tremendously on the emotions of this community.”
Indiana State Police Sergeant Kim Riley told reporters, “One thing the family asked us to do is to thank the communities around Delphi and the people here in Delphi for assisting in attempting to locate the two young children who were missing here earlier. They just wanted to say thank you to those people and express their gratitude toward the hard work that was done in helping search for the children.”
2. They Posted a Final Photo on Snapchat While Hiking Along a Historic Railroad Bridge
The girls posted an eerie final photo on Snapchat before they disappeared, according to WRTV.
The photo, which you can see above, was posted about 2 p.m. It was taken by Liberty German and shows Abigail Williams walking along the railroad bridge. Liberty posted it to her Snapchat account.
According to police and family members, the girls phones pinged in multiple locations but were shut off shortly after they were reported missing.
A woman who was at the bridge commented on a Facebook post by a family member of one of the girls, saying she had been at the bridge shortly after the girls posted the photo. She said she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
“I even walked all the way across the bridge and back. I only (saw) a guy when I first got there and another couple once I got on the bridge,” Cheyenne Mekisha Engles wrote. “I didn’t see the girls at all. I also didn’t take the trail that leads to the right. Only took the trail that lead to the bridge.”
The bridge where the girls were hiking is known as a popular spot in the Delphi area. It appears to have been an area where the girls had been before.
Abigail’s mom, Anna Williams, has a photo of the bridge as her Facebook cover photo. That photo was already in place before her daughter went missing.
Another photo on her Facebook page shows Abigail fishing in the creek with the bridge in the background.
3. Community Members Expressed Concern Over the Lack of Details About the Case Released by Police
Some community members in the small town of about 3,000 people have expressed concerned to local media about the lack of details released by police after the bodies were found.
Officials from the Indiana State Police, Delphi Police Department and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office both told reporters they were not able to share much information because of the ongoing investigation.
A press conference Tuesday afternoon was filled with vague statements from police spokesmen.
“We don’t have much at this time,” State Police Sergeant Kim Riley said at the press conference. “The Indiana State Police is assisting the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and the Delphi City Police in the investigation here. We also have the FBI crime scene investigation group here out of Indianapolis.”
“We don’t really want to put out too much information at this point of time,” he said. I know we’re not giving you much, I understand that. But we’re at the baby stages of this case. At this point of time I cannot release really much more information. As soon as I can, I will be more than happy to put stuff out.”
Riley said he was not “at liberty” to give a description of the bodies found in Deer Creek, and also would not say who found the bodies. He also would not give further information about the condition of the bodies and whether they had been injured.
When asked if there was a suspect or person of interest being questioned, Riley replied, “We have not gotten that far into the investigation so I cannot comment on that one way or the other.”
Police were also asked if people in the community should be afraid.
“I think people are smart enough in our community to draw their own conclusions about what they should feel and shouldn’t feel,” Delphi Police Chief Steve Mullin replied. “Our people are very smart. They are a very good community and they are very strong. And they are able to draw their own conclusions about this whole situation I think quite successfully.”
The reporter clarified that he asked the question because some may be concerned when they hear the words “foul play suspected” that there may be somebody “preying on people that they need to be afraid of.”
Mullin said he “understands” what he is saying, and again responded, “I think people are able to draw their own conclusions about this situation, and they’re smart enough to figure out what this situation warrants them to think. That’s all we have to say about that.”
You can watch the full police press conference below:
A local parent, Jennifer Robinson, was asked by the Lafayette Journal & Courier if she feels safe.
“Not particularly, to be honest with you, and I’ve got three kids,” Robinson told the newspaper. “To me it’s kind of a big deal.”
Dennis Walker, another Delphi resident, told the newspaper, “There’s a lot of blowing up going on at Facebook. A lot of angry people. A lot of other people saying we got to pray for the family, do what we can.
“A lot of people go out there for a little hiking, a nice day in the woods, get a little exercise. This shouldn’t happen to you when you go out there,” he said.
Julia Leahy told the Journal-Courier, it’s going to “take this community a long time” to get over this.
Melissa Schwartz told WRTV, “I think it’s very scary, I was raised in Delphi, grew up in Delphi and we’ve never had anything like this happen in Delphi, so it’s very concerning.”
While police have not called it a homicide investigation, some in the community have jumped to conclusions.
“I would always be concerned about that until they find whatever murderous beast did this. I would watch my kids very carefully,” Kevin Kologinski told WRTV. “Mine are all grown up, my grandchildren are too young to be off on their own, but for any other kids that are out I’d keep a very close eye.”
4. The Girls Were Both Students at Delphi Community Middle School
The girls were both students at the Delphi Community Middle School.
“It is with heavy hearts that the school corporation day comes to an end. It is our understanding that the two bodies found today were those of our two missing Delphi Community Middle School students,” the school district said in a statement to WRTV.
School officials said they plan to have counselors and pastors available for those who need them on Wednesday. The school will open as normal.
Teenagers gathered outside the town’s firehouse on Tuesday after word spread about the bodies that were found, the Lafayette Journal & Courier reported.
A vigil was held Tuesday night at the Delphi United Methodist Church, according to the Pharos-Tribune.
Community members prayed for the families of the two girls, along with first responders, teachers and students. The service include readings from the book of Matthew.
“The people that participated in the search and the people who have made every effort to find the victims in this case, it’s much appreciated,” Delphi Police Chief Steve Mullin told the newspaper at the vigil. “I know this has had a terrible effect on our people, and I am pleased to see the community come out and help us in every way they have. I’m proud to be a part of this community.”
5. Police Say They Are Confident They Will ‘Get to the Bottom of This’
Sergeant Kim Riley said on Twitter that investigators were still working at the crime scene late Tuesday evening.
An autopsy was completed Wednesday morning, and police confirmed Williams and German were the victims of a double homicide. Authorities have not released a cause of death, and say further testing, including toxicology reports, are still being completed.
“There is someone out there that did this crime and we’re going to track them down,” Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby told reporters. “Folks should continue with business as usual but be more mindful and watch your surroundings a little closer. We’re going to get to the bottom of this, we feel confident.”
Riley said parents should keep an eye on their children.
“I think people need to be cautious and careful,” Riley said. “Parents should make sure they know where their children are and what their children are doing, and if nothing else, know what’s going on in their lives. That’s the most important thing I can say at this point in time.”
“We are asking for anyone to come forward with information or were in the area of the Delphi Historic Trails or Monon High Bridge that might have seen a person or persons, vehicles parked in the area or were taking pictures,” Indiana State Police said in a press release. “Any information may be helpful to solving this case. You can contact the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department or the Delphi Police Department at 765-564-2413, option #1, or the Indiana State Police at 765-567-2125.
“Also, if you were parked at High Bridge Trail Head on February 13, 2017 between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. we would like to talk to you,” police said.