Prosecutor: Delphi suspect admitted ‘five or six times’ he murdered Abby and Libby
Defense attorneys discount the allegations. Judge sets January 2024 trial for Richard Allen, charged with the 2017 murders in Delphi
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TRIAL SET FOR JANUARY IN DELPHI MURDERS
On a day when a judge set aside three weeks in January 2024 for the murder trial of Richard Allen, attorneys on both sides of the case tipped that the Delphi man had implicated himself several times since he was charged with the 2017 killings of teens Abby Williams and Libby German.
Carroll County Prosecutor Nick McLeland said in court Thursday that Allen, a former CVS clerk in Delphi, has offered confessions “five or six times that he killed the girls.”
In what context Allen said those things, McLeland didn’t elaborate in court. And attorneys and others are under a gag order, unable to talk to media. McLeland mentioned them, though, during a Thursday hearing that dealt with Allen’s attempt to get moved from a maximum security pod at the Indiana state prison in Westville to a county jail until his trial.
Brad Rozzi, one of Allen’s attorneys, told the court that he was aware of the allegations and that “you’re going to hear more about that at some point.” But Rozzi said Allen had been showing a pattern, in part due to what the defense team has contended is his slipping physical and psychological state since his arrest, of “one minute he says one thing, the next minute he says something else.”
“It’s not him throwing in the towel,” Rozzi said. “It’s not that.”
Allen was in court Thursday, shackled in a yellow prison jumpsuit and a black ballistic vest, looking thin and wan. He said nothing during a five-hour hearing in Carroll Circuit Court. (Note: Decorum rules that blocked any use of cellphones in courthouse Thursday kept me from getting a fresh shot of Allen and his current condition.)
Abby Williams and Libby German, eighth-graders at Delphi Community Middle School, were killed Feb. 13, 2017, while on the town’s Monon High Bridge Trail. That day, Libby and Abby had taken 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.
Their deaths consumed Delphi and brought national attention during an investigation that stretched nearly six years.
Allen was charged in late October 2022, tied to the scene by witness descriptions and the discovery of an unspent bullet that investigators say they found near the girls in February 2017 and that matched a handgun Allen owned.
Judge Fran Gull, an Allen Superior Court judge appointed to the case, set a trial to start Jan. 8, blocking out the calendar through Jan. 26. That will include jury selection in Allen County, after Gull agreed months ago that it would be close to impossible to get jurors in Carroll County who weren’t in some way affected by the girls’ murders and the investigation that followed.
Allen’s other attorney, Andrew Baldwin, said he and Rozzi still had to go through a full hard drive of evidence produced by the prosecutor to keep pace with the case. Meanwhile, McLeland told the judge that his office still had more discovery coming.
Rozzi said the defense team was overwhelmed, particularly as it fought to modify a safekeeping order, signed in November by Carroll Circuit Judge Benjamin Diener, that landed Allen in a state prison until the trial. Rozzi said that the defense team had been working so much on that issue that they hadn’t been able to fully concentrate on the facts in the case, itself.
Allen’s request to modify that safekeeping order made up the bulk of Thursday’s court hearing.
Rozzi argued that moving Allen to an isolated prison cell nearly 100 miles from Delphi put him in among some of Indiana’s worst, convicted criminals and far from attorneys working on his case. Rozzi repeated claims Thursday that he’d made in court documents earlier this year that Allen was being treated as if he was already convicted. He said that the prison wasn’t set up for pre-trial consultations and prep, in a setting where attorneys weren’t allowed to bring laptops to share court documents, prison guards used camcorders to record every conversation and even bottles of water were banned from stark meeting rooms.
Rozzi also argued that the safekeeping move had been done because then Sheriff Tobe Leazenby, who requested it, had feared for Allen’s safety in Carroll County’s small jail and small staff, but had never had a real threat.
Rozzi had proposed moving Allen to the Cass County Jail, about 20 minutes from Delphi in Logansport. (Carroll County Sheriff Ed Schroder testified Thursday that his jail could handle Allen, but admitted in court, “I don’t really want him.”)
“We’re not asking to put him in the Holiday Inn,” Rozzi said, calling it a matter of basic rights.
McLeland didn’t argue against moving Allen to a county jail, but he contended concerns that drove the initial request still held in Carroll County. That, he said, would intensify with word that Allen might have confessed. McLeland said his main concern was that Allen remain held without bail.
Gull allowed that there should be no video during attorney visits to Allen in Westville. Gull said she would rule on the full motion to modify the safekeeping order soon.
What wasn’t heard Thursday were motions by Allen’s attorneys about whether to suppress ballistic evidence connected with the bullet investigators say was tied to a gun Allen owns. Gull said a hearing on that would be scheduled later.
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