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Warning: This article discusses death (murder and suicide), sexual assault, and child molestation. Please read with caution.
On the afternoon of Feb. 13, 2017, Abigail Williams (13) and Liberty German (14) were dropped off at a hiking trail in Delphi, Ind. near Monon High Bridge, an abandoned railroad bridge over Deer Creek. Liberty posted two pictures to her Snapchat of both girls walking along the path. After they failed to meet the person who dropped them off, they were reported missing. In a press release, Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said, “There is no reason to suspect foul play or to believe the girls are in immediate danger.” On Feb. 14, the search team found two bodies about half a mile away from Monon High Bridge. A day later, an autopsy was performed, and it was confirmed that the bodies were those of Abigail and Liberty.
So what exactly happened?
The only concrete evidence authorities have from the case is an audio recording Liberty had taken of the unknown suspect. The recording was released to the public, and was of a muffled man’s voice saying, “down the hill.” The audio recording caused an influx of tips and theories. Even Nancy Grace, a well-known American legal commentator and television journalist, gave her two cents on the case, “we hear that muffled: ‘down the hill, down the hill’ — why was it muffled? Because I think she put [her phone] in her pocket. Now they are only releasing a portion of it, why? It could be an attack on the girls. It could even be their murders that they are not releasing to spare the families. But there’s more proof on that video!”
Are there any suspects?
The same day that the autopsies were performed, Indiana State Police released a blurry image of a man who was on the trail around the time Abigail and Liberty were murdered. He was not named a suspect at first, but soon became the prime suspect. On July 17, 2017, Indiana State Police released a composite sketch of the murder suspect. The person depicted was described as a White man whose height is around 5’6” to 5’10”, weighing around 180 to 220 pounds, with reddish-brown hair.
Daniel Nations was arrested in September 2017 for having expired Indiana license plates. He was charged for threatening people with a hatchet on a Colorado trail. It was reported that Nations shot a bicyclist, and the case was seemingly similar to the Delphi murders. Nations’ wife spoke out and said he looked similar to the police sketch: “I can’t tell if that is him or not. But the one thing I’m not going to buckle on, he did not have that jacket.” On the one-year anniversary of the girl’s murders, Nations was ruled out as a suspect.
Speculations arose regarding a man arrested in connection with a 30-year-old cold case, who could have been linked to Abigail and Liberty’s murders. John Miller was arrested in July 2018 for the 1988 strangulation of eight-year-old April Tinsley. Miller lived just two hours from Delphi, Ind. — yet Indiana State Police Sergeant Kim Riley refused to comment if Miller was a suspect in the Delphi murders. “We have 1,000 names out there, and we’re still looking at all of them,” said Riley.
Charles Eldridge was arrested in January 2019 on charges of child molestation and child solicitation. During the press coverage of his arrest, local Indiana residents pointed out the similarities between Eldridge and the police sketch. Randolph County Police said, “outside of the person resembling the sketch, there is currently zero evidence that ties him to this case, and he is not a suspect in the case.”
Paul Etter, a sexual assault suspect, was considered a possible suspect in Abigail and Liberty’s murders. Investigators received a tip about Etter, but he was ultimately ruled out as a suspect. Etter was spotted driving a stolen vehicle in July of 2019, and, after a five-hour standoff with police, he committed suicide.
Have there been any developments?
In April of 2019, Indiana State Police released a new composite sketch that looked nothing like the previous one. There was also new audio and video that was also released to the public. The video was taken from Liberty’s phone of a man walking towards the girls. The phone audio was of the man ordering the girls to go down the hill.
Police believe that the suspect lived, or still lives, in Delphi. They believe the man is 18 to 40 years old, but he may appear older than he is. Superintendent Doug Carter had a message for the killer, saying, “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. We likely have interviewed you, or someone close to you. We know this is about power to you. You want to know what we know. One day, you will.”
Why is this not considered a cold case by now?
County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said in the February 2021 press conference, “It has been four years, but, for us, it seems like it was just yesterday when we started this thing.” Abigail and Liberty’s families have also been very vocal throughout this whole investigation. In July of 2019, Liberty’s older sister took to YouTube to debunk conspiracies surrounding the case. Kelsi German listed a series of rumors and responded to all of them. She started with the timeline of events and continued by saying that her family has been very cooperative with the police. She also noted that a park is being built to honor the girls. “It’s [going to] be an awesome park. It’s going to benefit our community so much, and it’s helping our family to grieve. It’s an outlet for us to keep busy.”
Abigail and Liberty were two young girls with their whole lives ahead of them. Finding the killer and getting an explanation as to why this tragedy occurred will help their families find some closure. Spreading harmful rumors only hurts the case and their families. Anyone with information pertaining to the case is urged to call the Delphi homicide tip line at 844.459.5786. Tips can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: Courtesy of CNN