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‘Just eerie:’ Abby and Libby’s suspected killer found living in Delphi
It took more than five years to arrest and charge Richard Allen for the 2017 murders. He was in Delphi, working at a CVS, in that time
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In the minutes after investigators on Monday confirmed that a Delphi man had been arrested and two murder charges had been filed in the 2017 killings of middle school friends Libby German and Abby Williams, Becky Patty said the moment she’d waited to have for the past 5½ years didn’t feel like she thought it would.
“I always said I would be screaming on the rooftops,” Becky Patty, Libby German’s grandma, said. “But we’re not. It’s sad.”
Instead, the families of the two girls – killed while hiking along Delphi’s Monon High Bridge during a day off from school in February 2017 – were treating Monday’s news as a new chapter in what already has been a long saga.
Police announced Monday morning that they’d arrested and charged Richard M. Allen, 50, of Delphi, following news Friday that they had someone in custody in connection with the case.
According to Indiana State Police, Allen was detained Wednesday at ISP’s Lafayette post before being transferred to the Carroll County Jail and then to the White County Jail in Monticello, where he was being held Monday with no bond.
“Today is not a day to celebrate,” Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter said, facing dozens of media cameras from a stage at Delphi United Methodist Church, the site of the early briefings in the case.
But he said the arrest of Allen was “sure a major step in leading to a conclusion of this long-term and complex investigation.”
What led police to Allen, who lived in a subdivision on the other side of U.S. 421 from Delphi Community High School and worked at a CVS in Delphi, wasn’t clear.
Neither were other details tied to the arrest, including motive and when police first pegged Allen as a suspect.
Carroll County Prosecutor Nick McLeland said the court temporarily sealed the probable cause affidavit – which would lay out how a crime happened and what evidence investigators had to back the charges – to give investigators more time to collect tips in what he called an ongoing investigation.
“While I know you were expecting final details today concerning this arrest, today is not that day,” Carter said. “This investigation is far from complete, and we will not jeopardize its integrity by releasing or discussing documents or information before the appropriate time.”
McLeland and other investigators declined to say whether they believed someone else was involved and could eventually be arrested, too. But he said a tip line – one that has generated thousands of leads since opening in February 2017 – remained open for information “not only about Richard Allen, but about any other person that you may have.”
McLeland only would say the it “will become evident to you at some point” why details of the investigation weren’t released with the murder charges.
Police have been tight-lipped about the murder case, offering only occasional clues, including video footage of a man walking across the Monon High Bridge and audio of a man saying, “Guys … down the hill” – both captured by Libby German’s cellphone. But during one update in 2019 – when police released a second sketch of a person they said might be connected to the case – Carter said: “We also believe this person is from Delphi — currently or has previously lived here, visits Delphi on a regular basis or works here.”
After a case that included a force of local, state and federal investigators and constant reminders in Delphi about the girls’ story, how was it for officials to make a hometown arrest?
“That’s a hard question to answer, but it’s mixed emotions,” McLeland said. “It’s concerning that he’s a local guy. … Again, this is a step in the right direction. This is the first step to getting into court and having a trial.”
Allen has pleaded not guilty. He has a pretrial appearance set for Jan. 13. McLeland said a trial is scheduled for March 20.
Carroll County property records show that Allen lived on Whiteman Drive, a subdivision on the east side of the town of 2,972 people, less than 20 miles northeast of Lafayette. On Monday, no one appeared to be at the house.
CVS issued a release that acknowledged that Allen had worked at the Delphi’s CVS pharmacy, several blocks south of the Carroll County Courthouse square.
“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. We stand ready to cooperate with the police investigation in any way we can.”
The store was among many in Delphi that displayed flyers with information about the case. One path from Allen’s home to the store would have taken him past large window displays of police sketches tied to the Delphi murders in buildings on the courthouse square.
“I’m sure there were times where I was in CVS and he was there,” Kelsi German, Libby German’s sister, said Monday afternoon. “As much as I’ve always said I'm watching every single person around me, I don't think I ever looked at him and thought that he was the guy. … I had no idea he existed until Friday.”
Police had called Abby and Libby’s families into a meeting room just off the Delphi United Methodist Church before Monday’s briefing to give them the news that was about to break before livestreaming cameras less than an hour later.
Becky Patty said they’d been given an initial heads up Wednesday that someone was in custody, “so we had a couple more days to process this.”
Mike Patty, Libby German’s grandpa, said he didn’t know Allen and hadn’t heard of him, either. Becky Patty confirmed one bit of information floating around town that Allen had helped process some of the family’s pictures at the CVS sometime after the murders and that Allen had refused to charge for them.
“That’s what Doug Carter said early on: He’s hiding in plain sight,” Mike Patty said. “And that’s the case. I don’t know the gentleman, personally, at all. I’ve probably seen him. It’s a small county. But I definitely don’t know him.”
Did he suspect that someone in town knew about Allen and whatever it was that made police pin him as a suspect?
“That would be speculation,” Mike Patty said. “What do you think?”
The reporter answered: “It’s a small town.”
Mike Patty: “It sure is.”
What does he want to say to Allen?
“I’ll save that until I see him face-to-face,” Mike Patty said.
Patty said the family was most interested in sharing the advice of police – to keep plugging for tips in the case – and thanking investigators for getting this far and the media for keeping the girls’ story in the public eye.
“While there’s somebody who’s been arrested, our lives for 5½ years have been in a search mode. And that’s what we’ve done,” Becky Patty said. “We’re not doing that anymore. So, we’re just kind of feeling our way and figuring out what our purpose is now. What do we do next? How do we help? That’s what we want to know. How do we help now to make sure we have the right person, to make sure we have a conviction, to come to a total, final resolution.”
Mike Patty said: “We’ve got another hill to climb, and we’re going to get to the top of it. We certainly are.”
Abby Williams’ mom, Anna, her grandparents and other family members attended the briefing. Eric Erskin, Abby’s grandpa, said that the family was overwhelmed and laying low after Monday’s news.
Delphi Mayor Anita Werling said the community was coming to grips with an arrest – “finally, an arrest” – in a case that has consumed two families and the town, as well. She said she didn’t know Allen, either.
“We’ve been waiting for this for 5½ years,” Werling said. “I think we’re in a different place than we were before Friday. We just don’t know where that is. … In the days and weeks and maybe years ahead, we’ll be there to meet the needs of the families. This brings everything back up – not that it’s ever been far beneath the surface.”
Todd Ladd, pastor at Delphi United Methodist Church, preached a sermon Sunday near where the police lectern was for Monday’s press conference. He focused on Matthew 5, framing the message of finding God while going through trauma. (Kelsi German, who was in a front row seat Sunday, said it felt like it had been written for her.)
“We’ve had a community trauma,” Ladd said Monday. “I feel like we crossed that bridge today. Now we see what that next side is. … We want to know what happened, but we don’t want to know what really happened to the girls, if you know what I mean. Hard things are still ahead.”
Tricia Mendel, an owner of Delphi businesses including Hometown Shirts and Graphix, watched the ISP news conference from the back of the church Monday. Her shop helped the families produce a string of T-shirt lines early in the investigation to, among other things, help spread the word about the case. She said she expected police to play things close to the vest. (“I didn’t even think they’d say they’d arrested him for murder,” Mendel said.)
Mendel said the community stood behind the families, understanding that prosecution and a conviction could take a long time. She said she had faith in the investigators. But she said she wanted to know whether the community was supposed to still be watching for the face in the second of two sketches police released in the past five years. And she said it was unnerving to think of Allen working a counter at CVS, knowing Abby and Libby’s family members came in.
“How could he have waited on them and looked them in the eyes?” Mendel asked. “It’s just eerie.”
ABOUT THE CASE: On Feb. 13, 2017, Liberty German and Abby Williams took advantage of a day off school and an unseasonably warm, winter afternoon to hike Delphi’s trails, taking off near the Freedom Bridge over Indiana 25/Hoosier Heartland Highway. When the girls didn’t show up that evening to meet their ride home, family and friends combed Delphi’s popular trail system, crossed an abandoned rail trestle called Monon High Bridge and brought in people to walk the woods that lined Deer Creek. The next morning, Feb. 14, 2017, a group of volunteers in a search party found the girls’ bodies, about a half-mile upstream from the Monon High Bridge.
FOR MORE ON THE INVESTIGATION: The Indiana State Police maintains a site with composite sketches, audio and video files, along with reward information, in the 2017 murders of Abby Williams and Libby German. Go to: https://www.in.gov/isp/delphi.htm
DELPHI DOUBLE HOMICIDE TIP LINE: Email email@example.com or call 765-822-3535.
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