DELPHI — Wednesday’s press conference on the two-year anniversary of the disappearance and killings of two Delphi teenage girls was meant to assure the community that the case is not cold and to keep the river of tips flowing in to law enforcement.
Investigators also had a pointed message for the girls’ killer.
“If you’re watching, we are coming,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter told a row of mostly TV news cameras and journalists Wednesday – some of whom were broadcasting live from the Carroll County Courthouse. “All that has happened (in Carroll County) and all of the sadness associated with this county is unacceptable in a civilized society.”
Carroll County Prosecutor Nicholas McLeland said he’s optimistic the case will be solved. He also had his own message for the killer.
“If he’s listening in or she’s listening in … at some point I’ll be sitting across from you in the courtroom,” he said. “I’m confident that we’re going to resolve this case. I’m confident we’re going to get an arrest.”
The bodies of the two teens, Liberty German and Abigail Williams, were discovered Feb. 14, 2017, near the Monon High Bridge Trail in Delphi one day after a relative dropped the girls off for a two-hour hike. When they failed to show on an agreed-upon pick-up time, an all-out search commenced.
Investigators released a grainy photo of a man they believed to be the killer from German’s cell phone. They also released a recording, also obtained from German’s phone, of the suspect saying, “Down the hill.” Months later, a sketch of the suspect – obtained from witnesses who believe they saw the man --was released.
Since that time, no other information has been released.
Investigators from local, county, state and federal agencies don’t plan to release any more details of the killings — such as how the girls were killed, time of death, whether there is DNA evidence, etc. — mainly, McLeland said, to preserve the integrity of the case.
“At some point, this case is going to go to trial or come to the courts, and we have to make sure the integrity of the case is solid,” he said. “That’s the main reason.”’
McLeland said the case has received more than 38,000 tips and they expected more to flow in after Wednesday afternoon’s press conference.
“We’re prepared for that and we want that,” he said. “We have detectives, officers and analysts working on these tips and investigating all possible evidence from these tips.”
On any given day, McLeland said, investigators receive about a dozen or more leads.
“All of the tips are greatly appreciated — all of the tips,” he said. “We want to encourage people to continue to call in with any information they may have. It could be the missing piece that we need to solve this thing. It could be the missing piece that ties this whole thing together.
“I always use the adage, ‘If you see something, say something.’ Nothing is going to be considered a dumb tip, or a tip that we don’t want. Information is our main weapon here.”
On the stage next to investigators stood a white poster listing what McLeland said makes a good tip.
“That doesn’t mean if you don’t have all this information that you don’t call in the tip,” he said. “Even if you don’t have all of this, continue to call that tip in, let investigators take that tip and let them track down what they can from that tip.
“No tip is bad or irrelevant or un-usable.”
McLeland said a name, identifiers — tattoos, birth marks, long hair, short hair, height weight, beard, mustache — birth date, last known address, places the suspect may frequent, any explanation of why the suspect is involved, and what connection — if any — the suspect may have to Delphi.
“In an ideal world, this is the information we want,” he said. “This is the information that makes it easier for investigators to look into that tip and track down whatever information they can.”
McLeland discouraged people from side-by-side comparisons on social media of potential suspects to the only known sketch of the suspect.
“That just muddies the water and hurts the investigation,” he said. “If you have a side-by-side or a tip you think is legitimate, call it in to the tip line, or use the email address (email@example.com). Let the professionals take that tip and do what they can with it.”
Carter echoed McLeland’s stance on amateur sleuths and speculation on social media.
“Generally speaking, it’s not helpful and it hampers the investigation,” he said. “Forward the information, but don’t do your own investigation.”