On anniversary of Delphi killings, community has faith in justice

Abby Williams and Libby German, both Delphi eighth-graders, were murdered while hiking a popular community trail near Delphi on Feb. 13, 2017.

Most everyone takes for granted teenage rites of passage — driver’s licenses, proms, high school graduations — but for Anna Williams, these coming-of-age moments remind her of her loss.

While Anna rejoices in her daughter’s friends growing up, she remembers that her daughter, Abby Williams, should be 16, and Abby’s best friend, Libby German, should be 17.

They should have their driver’s licenses, should be involved in their school bands and sports and should be developing life-long friends with their Delphi 2021 classmates.

Abby and Libby’s killer stole the girls’ lives three years ago Feb. 13 along the north bank of the Deer Creek about a quarter mile east of the Monon High Bridge. The killer also robbed the girls’ parents and grandparents of sharing those special memories.

“We know after this year, we’d be moving into their senior year,” Anna Williams said, noting all the special moments that come with the final year of any high schooler’s experience.

“I wish we were doing all those things, but we’re not,” she said. “But it is what it is.”

She keeps in touch with some of Abby’s friends via social media or sees them out in the city.

“I’m excited for them,” she said.

That horrible day

What Libby and Abby might have become in life stopped three years ago along the north bank of the Deer Creek about a quarter mile east of the Monon High Bridge.

They had that day off from school, and Abby spent the night with Libby. They both decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm Monday to spend a little time walking the Heritage Trails east of Delphi.

When the girls didn’t return to the pick-up point and Libby didn’t answer her phone, the families started a search that went into the night.

The morning of Feb. 14, 2017, the community joined in the search. Before noon, police had found the girls’ bodies.

Police haven’t said how the girls died. All they’ve said is that the girls were killed.

Three years later, police still aren’t saying much about the investigation, and the killer remains at large.

Three years later

Abby and Libby’s killing shocked Delphi, as well as those in Indiana and the rest of the country.

Despite the shock and the lack of a suspect in custody, hope for justice remains steadfast in Delphi.

“There is still hope. There is still trust. There is still belief,” said the Rev. Todd Ladd, pastor of the Delphi United Methodist Church who performed Libby’s funeral. “It really impacts the entire community, still.”

Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby is one of Ladd’s parishioners.

“I still believe in justice,” the sheriff optimistically said last week.

After “bridge guy” is close to the girls — and likely under his intimidation — Libby’s recording picks up his voice, telling the girls to “go down the hill.”

Find “bridge guy,” and they’ll find Libby and Abby’s killer, Leazenby said.

Changing directions

For more than two years, police circulated a composite sketch of a scruffy-faced, chubby-looking “bridge guy,” but last April, police abruptly changed direction in their investigation.

Police published a new sketch of what they believe “bridge guy” looks like and told the public to consider the first drawing to be secondary and not as important as the new drawing.

In April, police also released a brief video of “bridge guy” that shows his gait in hopes it might spark tips from someone who knows him.

The two contrasting sketches led some to wonder if there was more than one person involved in the killings.

“We’re not sure about that,” Leazenby said Thursday when asked whether two people were involved in the crime.

Leazenby advised people to focus on the video of “bridge guy” and the new sketch — not the original drawing.

Police believe the man is between 18 and 40 and looks young for his age, Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said last April.

“Bridge guy” is familiar with Delphi, Carter said last year. He’s either lived there, worked there or frequently visits there.

Leazenby said “bridge guy” had to know where to take the girls to kill them in a place concealed from the public’s sight, and the spot along the creek would not be common knowledge to outsiders.

Remaining hopeful

Tips of who “bridge guy” might be continue to be phoned or emailed in, and the community remains supportive of police and Libby and Abby’s families.

“I’m absolutely hopeful,” Anna Williams said about the case eventually being resolved.

She mentions several cases in the U.S. that remained unsolved for decades.

“We’re young,” Anna Williams said. “We’re now in the third-year mark. It takes time. Are we thrilled about it? No.”

But she understands the process, which can be slow, she said.

During last summer, Leazenby assigned two road deputies to assist in the investigation during slower months.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Kim Riley said they have two troopers assigned to the Delphi killings, as well as FBI agents assigned to the case.

Carroll County Sheriff’s Office has two deputies assigned to the case, Leazenby said, and Delphi also has officers assigned to it.

But the investigators assigned to the Delphi killings’ case also carry a normal caseload of investigations, Leazenby said.

Not a cold case

“A true cold case is when the well has went completely dry. That isn’t the case here,” Leazenby said. “We’re still getting information. It’s just not the right information. There’s at least four or five tips within a day.”

Asked what it will take to solve the case, Riley said, “They figure it’s the right tip to lead us to the suspect.”

What isn’t helpful, Leazenby said, are the social media posts of side-to-side photo comparisons of a person to the sketches released by police. Stop it, he said.

“We still have people doing the side-by-side comparison to someone else, and that does us no good,” Leazenby said. “It draws time and resources away.”

If someone has a tip, recognizes the walk of “bridge guy” or knows something about the case, call the tip line at 844-459-5786 or email the tip to abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com

“We know somebody knows who it is,” Anna Williams said, “and for whatever reason, no one’s come forward.”

She hopes whoever that person is can find the courage within themselves and make a call to the tip line.

“They’re still getting tips,” Anna Williams said, noting police keep her and Libby’s families informed about what’s going on in the case.

“The anniversaries are difficult,” Anna Williams said.

In years past, police held news conferences on the anniversary of the girls’ killings. But not this year.

“There’s nothing new to report,” Riley said, explaining why there is not a news conference this year. “Every year we’ve had something to report.”

Ron Wilkins writes for the (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.

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