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Police make arrest in 2017 murder of teenage girls

The murder of best friends Liberty German, 14, and Abigail Williams, 13, shook their Delphi, Indiana, community and the nation

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A makeshift memorial to Liberty German and Abigail Williams stands along the Monon Trail leading to the Monon High Bridge Trail in Delphi, Ind.

A makeshift memorial to Liberty German and Abigail Williams near where they were last seen and where the bodies were discovered stands along the Monon Trail leading to the Monon High Bridge Trail in Delphi, Ind., Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. The Indiana State Police announced an arrest in the murders of the two teenage girls killed during a 2017 hiking trip in northern Indiana.

Michael Conroy, Associated Press

Police have arrested a suspect in the murder of eighth graders Abigail Williams, 13, and Liberty German, 14, more than five years after the young best friends’ bodies were found near where they’d gone hiking in Delphi, Indiana.

During a press conference Monday, Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said that Richard Allen, 50, had been charged in a court hearing with two counts of murder in the killing of the teens, who were known to their friends and families as Abby and Libby. Allen is being held without bail.

They emphasized that he has been charged, but not convicted.

According to the Indy Star, Allen was arrested on Oct. 26 based on a probable cause affidavit that has now been sealed by the court. “Not much of Allen and his arrest is known as most of the case-related documents are under seal,” the article said.

It noted that a public court hearing will determine if the documents remain sealed.

“This investigation is far from complete and we will not jeopardize its integrity by releasing or discussing documents or information before the appropriate time,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter told reporters.

According to The New York Times, Carter said “investigators have ‘worked tirelessly,’ emphasizing that they have been counting the more than 2,000 days since the deaths, with some officers postponing retirement, working overtime and giving up holidays. But he said they were not done yet,” adding, “Today is not that day.”

Officials said the investigation is ongoing.

The suspect has entered a preliminary plea of not guilty. A pretrial hearing is slated for Jan. 13, 2023, with the trial set to begin in late March, though officials said that could change.

The crime

Feb. 13, 2017, on the last day of a four-day school break, the girls, who were eighth graders, went for a hike on the Delphi Historic Trails, after being dropped off. They were supposed to meet Libby’s dad at a certain time, but never showed up. Their bodies were found the next day in a wooded area about a half mile from where they were dropped off.

“A grainy video of a man walking and a garbled voice recording were among the scant clues authorities publicized over the years,” CNN reported.

Not long after the killings, police released the photograph of a man on the bridge, taken by Libby. State police said at the time they believed the man was a suspect in the double murder.

They also had a recording of someone saying “guys ... down the hill.”

In 2019, CNN said, police released a new sketch and more video from Libby’s cellphone.

Per The New York Times, “The police have not said how the girls, who were active in their school’s band, were killed, but praised Libby for the recordings. ‘This young lady is a hero, there is no doubt, to have enough presence of mind to activate the video system on her cellphone to record what we believe is criminal behavior that is about to occur,’” Sgt. Tony Slocum of the State Police said in 2017.

The crime has garnered broad national attention in part because it has been featured on true-crime podcasts, including the “Down the Hill” podcast produced by HLN TV.

Little known about suspect

The suspect reportedly worked at CVS and Libby German’s aunt, Tara German, told CNN she knew him through the store.

According to CNN, “I went into the store to print photos of Libby for the funeral, and he was the one who helped me,” German said. “I was a mess trying to get the images off my phone. Once they were printed, he looked at me and said, ‘I’m not gonna charge you for this.’”

WISH-TV reported that the suspect is “not cooperating with authorities.”

Kelsi German, Libby’s sister, tweeted after the press conference, “Today is the day” with a heart emoji.