Grandparents of Libby German, Becky and Mike Patty, speak during a news conference for the latest updates on the investigation of the double homicide of Liberty German and Abigail Williams on March 9, 2017, at Carroll County Courthouse in Delphi, Ind. Libby (left) and Abby (right) are seen in the background. Credit - J. Kyle Keener—The Pharos-Tribune/AP
Police have arrested a suspect in the brutal 2017 killings of two eighth-grade girls from Delphi, Ind.—the first major break in a case that has captivated national attention for nearly six years.
The case is perhaps best known for the fact that the girls, Abigail “Abby” Williams, 13, and Liberty “Libby” German, 14, documented the final moments before they were killed near a hiking trail in the town of 3,000 people.
On Oct. 26, detectives took 50-year-old Richard M. Allen, a local Delphi resident, into custody at the Indiana State Police Lafayette Post. Allen was formally charged with murdering Abby and Libby on Oct. 28.
“Today is not a day to celebrate,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said on Monday. “But the arrest of Richard M. Allen of Delphi on two counts of murder is sure a major step in leading to the conclusion of this long-term and complex investigation.”
Here’s what to know about the case, and the hunt for the killer.
What Happened to Abby Williams and Libby German?
Abby and Libby were dropped off near Monon High Bridge in Delphi, which is about 65 miles northwest of Indianapolis, on Feb. 13, 2017 at around 1 p.m. The girls had arranged to be picked up by a relative at a designated time, but did not show up. Police were called about the missing girls about 5:30 p.m.
Family members and police began to search the area, but could not locate either child.
Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby initially told Indianapolis TV station WRTV that he was not concerned that the girls were in imminent danger. However, about 12:15 p.m. the next day, authorities located two bodies near Deer Creek, about a half-mile upstream from the bridge where they were last seen.
On Feb. 15, police shared a photograph of a suspect wearing blue jeans, a blue jacket and a hoodie, hoping someone from the community could identify the suspect.
Officials have never disclosed information on the girls’ cause of death, or provided other details commonly released in murder cases. They have repeatedly cited the need to keep details secret in an effort not to compromise the investigation.
And despite this arrest, the investigation is still ongoing, police said. Tip lines are open for information about Allen and “any other person” Carter told the press.
Not much is known about Abby and Libby’s final moments, though authorities know the girls were last walking across an old railroad bridge at 2:07 p.m. on the day of their murder, based on German’s chilling last Snapchat post. In the post, Abby is walking down an abandoned railroad track, with no other people seen.
Just two days after the girls disappeared, police released a grainy photograph found on Libby’s cellphone of a man whom they wanted to speak with. Police identified him as a suspect by Feb. 19.
On Feb. 22, officials released an audio recording of a man saying “down the hill,” with leaves heard crunching in the background. Police said it was likely that the voice belonged to the man in the photo, and they pleaded for anyone who recognized the voice to come forward.
National media outlets widely reported this case, causing many to share theories and even podcast episodes dedicated to the case. The FBI even launched a nationwide digital billboard campaign, Fox News reports, with photos of the victims and suspect shared through about 6,000 billboards across 46 states.
In April 2019, two years after the girls’ death, police released a one-second video from Libby’s cellphone of a man who was walking behind the girls along the railroad bridge the girls had visited, again asking the public for help to identify the suspect.
“We believe you are hiding in plain sight. For more than two years, you never thought we would shift gears to a different investigative strategy, but we have,” Carter said during that press conference.
What happened during the investigation?
Officials rapidly responded to Abby and Libby’s murders—creating the Delphi Homicide Task Force, which was made up of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
For years, investigators relied on public tips for any information that could lead to arrests or convictions. Many people complied, and police announced they received around 18,000 tips just four months after the young girls first went missing.
Authorities relied on as many as 40 to 50 officers in the early months of the case, ABC News reports, though that was later scaled back in March 2017 once officers found the workload more manageable.
In July 2017, investigators worked with people who were in the area when the girls were first missing to release a sketch and other potential descriptions of the person of interest. The following day, the FBI said they had 500 new tips. (They released a second police sketch, two years later, that authorities believed was much more accurate, according to the Indianapolis Star).
By the fall of 2017, Indiana State Police announced they were investigating a Colorado man who was previously arrested for charges including failing to adhere to his sex offender registration, after a tip possibly linked him to the murders. But officials found nothing suspicious. “We went out to Colorado and we spent a little time with him, and he’s not a person we care a lot about,” Carter later said on the anniversary of the girls’ disappearance.
Investigators also looked into the owner of the land where the teens’ bodies were found. Previous reports by WRTV said that the man, who has since died, asked a relative to lie about where he was on the day of the murder.
During the investigation, Indiana State Police also discovered the social media account “anthony_shots,” a fictitious profile that was used to communicate with young girls. Detectives asked for help identifying the owner of the profile in December 2021, believing they could be involved in the case. A 28-year-old man was eventually arrested and took credit for the account, but police have not said he was involved in the murders.
What led to Richard Allen’s arrest?
It remains unclear what led police to arrest Allen. Police have released no details of the evidence against him or how they centered on him as a suspect.
Carroll County Prosecutor Nick McLeland told reporters that Allen entered a not guilty plea. He is being held at the White County Jail, where he is being held without bond.
The probable cause affidavit that led to his arrest is currently sealed and McLeland says the court will later decide whether the affidavit should remain closed.
“We are going to continue a very methodical and committed approach to ensure that if any other person had any involvement in these murders in any way, that person or person will be held accountable,” McLeland said to press. “We will not jeopardize its integrity by releasing or discussing documents or information before the appropriate time.”
Allen’s pretrial hearing will be held on Jan. 13, and a trail is set for March 20.
What do we know about Richard Allen?
Property records for Allen, a Delphi resident for at least 16 years, show that he lives 2.5 miles away from the trail where Abby and Libby were found dead, according to WRTV.
Police said he had been “hiding in plain sight” throughout the investigation.
Mike and Becky Patty, Libby’s grandparents, told reporters that Allen apparently worked at a local drug store as a pharmacy technician. Though the relationship between the suspect and the victims remains unclear, Becky confirmed that the suspect had previously processed photos of the girls for free at his job.
Allen has had no other substantial criminal charges, as he only has two speeding tickets on record.
“As members of the Carroll County community, we remain devastated by these murders and our hearts go out to the German and Williams families. We are shocked and saddened to learn that one of our store employees was arrested as a suspect in these crimes,” said a spokesperson for the pharmacy store where Allen works, to WRTV. “We stand ready to cooperate with the police investigation in any way we can.”