Judge to decide whether Delphi records will remain sealed

Nov. 22—DELPHI — Clad in a yellow jumpsuit, shackles and a bulletproof vest, 50-year-old Richard Allen of Delphi, accused of murder in the deaths of Abby Williams, 13, and Libby German, 14, appeared in court Tuesday morning for a hearing regarding the release of public documents in his case.

Those records — including the probable cause affidavit and the charging information against the defendant — have been sealed since Allen's arrest late last month, per a motion filed by Carroll County Prosecutor Nick McLeland.

And during Tuesday's hearing, McLeland laid out his reasoning for wanting to continue to keep those records sealed, which included what he called "extraordinary circumstances," as written under Indiana's Rules on Access to Court Records Rule 6.

"There's not a lot of precedent for a hearing like this," McLeland told the court, though he did offer up two of his biggest concerns.

McLeland argued that keeping the records sealed from public and media access would protect witnesses involved the case, and it would also ensure the investigation would not be hindered.

"This is still a very ongoing investigation," he noted. "... We have a good reason to believe that Richard Allen is not the only one involved in this. ... The public has an absolute right to information, but at what cost?"

To argue that point, McLeland admitted into court several exhibits, including a letter from Becky Patty — German's grandmother — and a petition of over 40,000 signatures asking for the records to remain sealed at this time.

McLeland then took a few moments to address the "extraordinary lengths" the media has reportedly gone through to speak to anyone involved in the case.

"We are a society of people that need to know right now," he said. "... But we can't look at this case like any other case."

But while McLeland does continue to want the records sealed, he did acknowledge there's a possibility the records will eventually be revealed to the public.

And if they are, he argued they should at least be redacted so witnesses' names and information are withheld for safety reasons.

As for the defense's stance, Allen's attorney Bradley Rozzi asked the court a simple question.

"What's the risk?" he said. "... Transparency up front is where the court should be. ... The idea that the public has known very little has led to the public interest."

Rozzi also argued that continuing to keep the records sealed will just continue to feed the public's curiosity with the case, thus making the attorneys' jobs even more challenging.

"The public will just be sitting here the whole time," he told the court, adding that those heading up the investigation have asked the public for help for years in solving the case but are now telling that same public they don't want them to see the results of that investigation.

"It's like talking out of both sides of your mouth," Rozzi said. "... So we ask that you unseal the records, and let's move on."

Members of the girls' families were in the courtroom during Tuesday's hearing, but they did not wish to comment.

After Tuesday's hearing, Margaret Christensen, office managing partner at Dentons Bingham Greenebaum in Indianapolis, told the gathered media that the public has the right to understand the criminal charges and the allegations against Allen.

Christensen, who represents the Indiana Broadcasters Association, added it's unprecedented that the court would even prohibit documents from being released, and their organization filed a brief earlier this week asking the court to reconsider.

"They said the media is just after soundbites, but they wouldn't be after that if they were given the full information," Christensen said. "... It's frustrating."

The special judge in the case, Allen County Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, will now take the issue of whether the records will be kept under seal or officially released under advisement, offering no timetable for when that decision will be made.

Allen's next court appearance is Feb. 17, when the issue of bond will be discussed.

It was Feb. 14, 2017, when the bodies of Williams and German were located along the banks of Deer Creek near the Monon High Bridge area, after being dropped off the day before but not returning to their pick-up location.

Five years later, on Oct. 31, 2022, investigators released that they had arrested Allen on two felony counts of murder.