Four years ago, two Indiana girls went for a walk in the woods on a warm February day.
Abigail Williams, 13, and Liberty German, 14, never returned to a prearranged pickup spot after their walk on the Delphi Historic Trails on the afternoon of Feb. 13, 2017.
Searchers found their bodies the next morning — Valentine’s Day — in a wooded area not far from the Monon High Bridge, which they had visited the day before, according to evidence from the crime.
The girls’ slayings as well as the blizzard of news coverage, social media speculation and bits of chilling evidence released in the case, have tormented and captivated Hoosiers and other Americans even this many years after the crimes.
In July of 2021, Carroll County imposed a total blackout on releasing any information about possible persons of interest in the investigation, according to Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby.
Here’s a closer look at what we know about what took place that day on that lonely trail.
Delphi murders early timeline: The search for Abby and Libby’s killer
Who killed Abby and Libby?
There have been no arrests in the case. Several persons of interest have garnered media interest over the years, but police later dismissed nearly all of them as suspects.
Police officers and family members also have complained about the rampant rumors that have circulated in the case as well as the side-by-side photos comparing actual persons to the police sketches that some people have posted on social media sites, saying such speculation doesn’t help the investigation and can be harmful to others.
Kelsi German: Sister of Delphi murder victim addresses internet speculation
Is James Brian Chadwell a suspect?
The most recent person of interest in the case is James Brian Chadwell II, a 42-year-old Lafayette resident accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl in April, 2021.
A knock on Chadwell’s door by police officers interrupted his sexual assault of the girl he had locked in his basement, forcing him to quickly dress and answer the door, according to prosecutors.
James Brian Chadwell: Lafayette girl found in basement says Chadwell sexually assaulted her, affidavit shows
After the arrest, residents were quick to point out the nature of the alleged crimes and a resemblance to the first suspect sketch.
“The information has obviously been shared with us, and our investigators are looking into him,” Leazenby said.
Attempts to follow up on the investigation into Chadwell’s possible connection were prevented when police imposed the information blackout in July.
Since his arrest, Chadwell has been involved in a jailhouse fight, and requested a change of venue citing worldwide media attention.
“Mr. Chadwell continues to be associated with Abigail Williams and Liberty German’s killings,” his attorney Shay Hughes said, noting that the New York Posts published information that indicated Chadwell is guilty.
How were the Delphi girls killed?
Social media groups dedicated to the case have speculated for years about how the girls were killed, but that information has never been publicly released.
Police officials and prosecutors have remained tightlipped about the investigation, saying repeatedly that they need to withhold certain key details to maintain the integrity of the case.
“When we have the person we want, we want to know what they know about the case,” Sgt. Kim Riley of the Indiana State Police, said in an interview with IndyStar in 2020. “That’s why we’ve held back on the information that we’ve given out.”
Families speak about Delphi murders: Four years later, family says it’s ‘like it happened yesterday’
Who is Anthony Shots?
In the course of the investigation in December 2021, police uncovered an online profile used to communicate with young girls, using the name anthony_shots. The man’s photo used on the profile is not a person of interest.
The online profile was used from 2016-17, police said, to solicit nude images from juvenile girls.
More: Detectives investigating Delphi teens’ murders uncover online profile, seek info
Investigators are asking anyone who may have communicated with, met or attempted to meet the person connected with the profile to email [email protected] or call 765-822-3535.
What else do we know about the Delphi murders?
Investigators have released these four bits of key evidence in the case.
• FBI description: The suspected killer is thought to be a white man who weighs between 180 and 200 pounds and stands between 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 5 feet, 8 inches tall. He has been described as wearing blue jeans, a blue jacket or coat and a hoodie.
• Police sketches: There were two police sketches released in the case. State Police released an image done by an FBI sketch artist on July 17, 2017, that showed an older-looking man with a goatee, who was wearing a cap and a hoodie. On April 22, 2019, State Police released a new sketch of the suspect, one in which the suspect is clean-shaven and looks to be much younger than the earlier sketch. Police say the new sketch takes precedence over the old one and added that the killer is now thought to be between the ages of 18 and 40 — but may appear younger than his true age.
• Smartphone image, audio: A day after the girls were found, police released a grainy image of the suspect taken from video on Libby’s smartphone. A week later, they released audio of a man’s voice saying “down the hill.” The longer version of the same smartphone video released in 2019 shows the gait of the man as he was walking on the bridge — as well as a longer version of audio, where he can be heard saying “Guys … Down the hill.”
• Location of suspect: At the same April 2019 press conference, Doug Carter, superintendent of the State Police, said new information leads investigators to believe that the killer is from Delphi, and they believe he either still lives or works in Delphi, or frequently visits the area.
Delphi murders: Is Abby and Libby’s killer one of Delphi’s own? ISP says, yes
Who were Abby Williams and Libby German?
Abby and Libby were friends and eighth-graders at Delphi Community Middle School, before they were killed.
To honor them, family members initially thought about raising money for new bleachers or a scoreboard at a softball field where the girls played. Their idea grew into the L&A Park Foundation, a nonprofit created to oversee the construction of a $1 million park, including three ball fields, an amphitheater and playgrounds.
Construction began in the spring of 2019 on the 20-acre Abby and Libby Memorial Park and donations are still being accepted. The NBA All-Star 2021 Host Committee also announced in February 2020 that it would award a $50,000 All-Star Legacy Grant to the foundation to help in the construction of the sports complex.
What have their families said?
Mike Patty, the grandfather of Liberty German, has spoken out publicly at news conferences and in interviews with the media about the toll that the case has taken.
Patty said in an interview in February 2018 that he was still optimistic that there would be a break in the case. Finding the killer, he said, would allow his family — and Abby’s mother, Anna — to finally start to grieve.
“This is what you wake up with every day. It’s the last thoughts before you go to bed. And some nights, I still don’t sleep. For three months, I didn’t sleep,” Patty said in 2018.
“And I’m not going to sleep until I know another family won’t have to go through this, like we are right now.”
‘Horrible to live like this’: Family members and community still torn apart a year after Abby and Libby were killed
Kelsi German has said she considered her younger sister, Libby, to be her best friend. She dropped Libby and Abby off near the Monon High Bridge trail early in the afternoon of Feb. 13, 2017.
Finding their killer has become a calling for her. In February 2020, on the third anniversary of their murders, Kelsi posted this poignant message to her 14,000-plus Twitter followers at @libertyg_sister: “Today 3 years ago,” she wrote, “was my last real day with my best friend and I wish I would’ve done it differently. I miss you.”
Kelsi talked more with a reporter from Lafayette Journal & Courier about how special her sister was — and her recollections of the events of that fateful day.
Are police holding a Delphi murders news conference this year?
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, the Delphi Police Department, the Indiana State Police and even the FBI have taken part in a handful of news conferences over the years, including one held about a week after the bodies were found.
But no news conferences have yet been scheduled so far this year. Instead, the State Police sent out a short news release on Feb. 1 saying only that a multi-jurisdictional team of officers is continuing to work on the case every day.
Are Delphi murders a cold case? After 3 years with no arrests, police say case isn’t cold
“We continue to actively investigate all tips and leads we receive by phone and email,” the news release said. “This type of violent crime cannot and will not go unanswered.”
The release also said “this is all the information that will be released at this time.”
How many officers are working the case now?
The State Police news release said there were two Carroll County detectives, two Indiana State Police detectives “and other law enforcement officers” assigned to the case.
There were hundreds of officers and volunteers helping out in the days and weeks after the girls disappeared and their bodies were found, but now much fewer are working actively on the case.
Police also say they’ve received tens of thousands of tips in the case. State Police Supt. Doug Carter and other law-enforcement officials have insisted in the past that the Delphi Murders investigation is not a cold case.
Is there new evidence in the case?
No new official evidence, but an augmented reality smartphone app called CrimeDoor released a video based on evidence from the crime scene that gives users a closeup view of computer-generated images of the girls standing on the Monon High Bridge, as the killer slowly approaches them across the abandoned, weather-beaten rail trestle.
CrimeDoor app: Augmented reality app might help find Delphi teens’ killer
The free portion of the app lets users access news accounts of crimes. If they want to digitally walk through a crime scene, users must pay $1.99 to download the augmented reality portion of the case.
Kelsi German, Libby’s older sister, has expressed support for the app, saying it may “hopefully solve cases and get arrests for many unsolved cases.”
Podcasts about the Delphi murders
The unsolved murders of Abby and Libby have been the subject of a several true crime podcasts. One of the most prominent was launched by HLN, formerly CNN Headline News, that premiered on Feb. 5, 2020, prior to the third anniversary of the girls’ deaths.
“Down the Hill: The Delphi Murders” examined the slayings’ impact on the small town , as well as how the case continues to haunt the community.
‘Down the Hill’: HLN explores Delphi murders in new podcast
One of the top true-crime podcasts, “My Favorite Murder,” gave their take on the case in Episode 235.
“Casefile” did an hour-long episode on the case, “Unsolved” released a 90-minute episode recapping the murders, while “Scene of the Crime: Delphi” did a 7-episode series on the basics of the case in early 2020.
Are tips still being taken in the case?
Yes. Investigators are still seeking information and ask that people who reach out to them provide key details, such as a name, age, phone number, and why the caller thinks that person may be connected to the case. Such tips can be made anonymously and there is a significant reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
Anyone with such information is urged to call the Delphi homicide tip line at 844-459-5786. Tips also may be emailed to [email protected]
Lafayette Journal & Courier reporters Ron Wilkins and Dave Bangert contributed to this story.
Dwight Adams is a digital producer on Gannett’s Midwest Digital Optimization team. He can be reached on Twitter @hdwightadams.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Delphi murders: 4 years later, what we know in deaths of Abby & Libby