“I imagine there was an opportunity for one or both to separate and try to make a break different ways. Those girls loved each other. They were good friends. Neither one of them left each other’s sides. Both those girls are heroes in my book.” – Mike Patty
For many people who find themselves in a waking nightmare, there is a dividing line of before and after. Before the traumatic event, their lives follow a steady rhythm and familiar order. They’re reliable, if a bit predictable, and things make a certain kind of sense. After, their world is irreparably damaged, and nothing ever quite makes sense again.
In the world Libby German’s family lived in prior to the 13th of February, 2017, it was inconceivable to think something truly terrible had happened, even after they’d initially realized the girls were missing. The kidnapping of two middle school children in broad daylight just didn’t seem like something that could happen in Delphi. So, although they’d been looking for Libby and Abby for roughly two hours before notifying police, the overall mood was one of concern but not yet desperation. They kept telling themselves that one – or even both – of the girls must have fallen on the trail, and the pair were sticking it out together, waiting for someone to find them. Maybe they were lost. Maybe Libby’s phone was somehow been damaged. Maybe the girls didn’t even realize anyone was looking for them…anything but the awful truth.
The exception was Becky Patty, Libby’s grandmother. She’d raised Libby since the age of three, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was deeply wrong. She tried calling AT&T, Libby’s cell service provider, to see if they could locate her phone, but Libby had performed a factory reset on the phone the previous week, and none of the tracking apps had been turned back on since then. Frustrated, Becky hung up without receiving any real help from AT&T. At a loss, the family continued their search.
“Me and my uncle actually crossed the bridge when we were yelling for them down there, and I remember getting to the end of the bridge and looking to the left and seeing, like, someone had fallen down the hill over there,” Kelsi later remarked, referring to some depressions in the grass. “And I didn’t think anything of it.” She continued trying Libby’s phone. At one point, she believed her call connected but the moment of hope was quickly crushed when the line fell silent and couldn’t be reached again. It was then that Libby’s grandparents decided to call police. Assured things would soon be in more capable hands, Kelsi left the trails to report for work, already more than an hour late.
Meanwhile, Abby’s mother Anna Williams was also working. At the restaurant where she waitressed, she found a minute to check her phone before the dinner rush. Unbeknownst to Anna, Becky had been trying to call her to inform her of the situation. After all, if someone was going to be forced to tell the woman that her only child was missing, Becky didn’t want it to be police. Unable to reach Anna by telephone, she’d driven to the Williams home, only to be informed Anna was at work.
By that time, Mike had already called 911 and returned to combing the trails when he literally ran into a pair of responding officers, one each from the Delphi PD and one from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department. After another brief search and discussion, the grandfather was asked to come file a formal missing persons report. Agreeing, he then called Becky to tell her to meet him at the sheriff’s office. Most of the other extended family members stayed behind to continue canvassing the woods, and people began asking for help on social media.
Shortly after she received the call from her husband Mike, Becky was finally able to speak with Anna. Abby’s mother readily agreed to leave work to meet the Pattys at the station but, like so many others, misinterpreted the severity of the circumstances. As she headed out the door, Anna optimistically told coworkers she’d sort everything out then probably be back in time to finish her shift.
Kelsi, too, was summoned away from work as authorities began questioning the families. Asked about her little sister’s social media, she showed the police two photos Libby had posted to Snapchat. The first was an artsy shot of High Bridge stretching out into the distance, away from the camera. The second photo was one of Abby crossing the bridge. Posted at approximately 2:07, the pictures were proof the girls had still been alive and well roughly half an hour after they’d been dropped off.
Curious about Abby and Libby’s other social media activity, the authorities had members of both families gather the girls’ digital devices from their homes and bring them in for examination. Abby owned a tablet, but she had been forbidden from getting a cell phone until she was 14. She’d also been forbidden from joining Facebook, but it was quickly discovered that not only had she set up a profile, furthermore she had a male Facebook friend her mother knew nothing about.
Of course, Libby had her phone on her when she disappeared, but police believed it had since died or been turned off. It has never been publicly revealed what -if anything- was found on computers and other devices in her home.
It was roughly then that the first controversial decision of the night was made. According to Anna Williams, police decided “almost immediately” that there was no evidence the girls were planning on meeting anyone. Nor, supposedly, were they talking to anyone who was posting under a fake name or concealing their true identity. Without any new information to disseminate or an indication of imminent danger, authorities decided against issuing an Amber Alert.
Still, word continued to spread and worry continued to grow on social media. Missing children were so unusual in the small town that the mayor was notified and responded that very night, and a report about the missing girls aired on local news. A group of approximately 100 people – including Mike, Becky, Anna, other family, friends, and members of various law enforcement entities, including the Delphi Police Department, Delphi Volunteer Fire Department, and Carroll County Sheriff’s Department – converged on the area. People searched in the dark and cold for hours, with nothing more than their flashlights and concern to lead the way.
The mood had grown more somber throughout the night as the temperature steadily dropped and no sign of the girls could be found. Around 10 pm, the group began thinning out as people went home to rest with the understanding that they would return in the morning. Even so, shortly before midnight, the sheriff’s office issued a press release stating there was no reason to suspect foul play.
Then, a few minutes later, authorities made yet another controversial decision. The official search was called off until the next day.
If you have any information pertaining to their murders – or the social media profile “anthony_shots” – please call the Delphi Homicide Investigation Tip Line (844-459-5786), the Indiana State Police (1-800-382-7537), or the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department (765-564-2413). You can also contact Abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com.
“I was like there -there’s nothing wrong. There has to be nothing wrong. It’s just Grandma overreacting like always. Then, me and Cody crossed the bridge and we’re looking in the woods, and we couldn’t find them anywhere. That’s when I started to realize something was really wrong. I was yelling her name so that she could hear me, and I hope she did hear us searching.”
– Kelsi German, who was only 17 at the time she was participating in the search for her missing sister
“This intersection is tough for me. It will always be tough for me. I can close myeyes, and I can just see them. You know, I can see they came from the left side over here…and laughing and joking and cutting up like two young girls do, probably. And then they turn left and their world’s about to change.”
– ISP Superintendent Doug Carter, referring to the bridge trail
In 2017, the Monon High Bridge Trail was much more inconspicuous than it is today. Mention the bridge or its namesake pedestrian trail to anyone now – especially anyone in Indiana – and the terrible murders of two young girls immediately leap to mind. But before someone lured Abby Williams and Libby German there to their deaths, making the area infamous, it was one of the state’s many hidden gems, appreciated by the local cognoscenti while simultaneously unknown to the outside world.
Built in the 1890s as a part of the Monon Rail Line spanning Deer Creek, the trestle bridge technically belonged to CSX Transportation at the time. However, in all practicality, it’d stood abandoned since the 1980s. The intervening years had seen the decaying bridge fall into disrepair and become dangerous to cross. By 2017, High Bridge had been pretty much forgotten by everyone except the surrounding community, for whom it remained both a source of worry and a popular hiking attraction. Posting pictures from atop the crumbling, 60-ft-tall bridge had become a social media rite of passage for the more-adventurous local teens and photographers.
Both Libby and Abby were into photography, and it seemed only natural they would be interested in joining the many other liberated students roaming the trails that day. Besides, there was safety in numbers and the girls were together, so it would’ve been perfectly understandable if no one had realized anything was wrong when the duo failed to turn up for the ride home. However, one of the most painful details about this entire case is just how quickly people did realize something had gone very, very wrong with Abby and Libby, yet still couldn’t save them.
When he’d initially agreed to be the girls’ return driver, Derrick had explained that he needed to finish his current task first and wouldn’t be available until sometime between 3 and 3:30. He’d arranged to shoot Libby a text when he was on his way though, so the girls would know when to return to the trailhead. True to his word, phone records indicate Derrick started texting at 3:11. When he didn’t receive a reply, he tried calling but received no answer. It wasn’t like his daughter to just ignore him, and Derrick began to worry, thinking perhaps the girls were hurt or lost. He parked his car and almost immediately started walking the trails in an attempt to find them.
Around five minutes later, Derrick encountered “an older man” coming from the 501 trail. Little information has been publicly released about this person, other than he was wearing a flannel shirt that day and has since been interviewed extensively by police. Derrick reportedly asked the older man in the flannel shirt if he’d seen the girls down on the trail; the man denied it but said that there were “a couple” under the bridge. Because this older man indicated the girls weren’t on the 501, Derrick headed down the trail known as the 505. There was still no sign of either Abby or Libby.
At that point, the concerned father began enlisting the help of other family members. He called his mother Becky, who conferred with her own sister, Tara. Both women tried unsuccessfully to reach Libby for more than half an hour before Tara left to join Derrick in his search. Meanwhile, Becky was faced with the unfortunate task of telling her husband, Mike, and Libby’s sister Kelsi that the girls couldn’t be found.
The family continued searching the woods for the girls on their own before calling police at 5:20 pm.
By then, the girls had been missing for just over two hours.
My apologies for the lateness of this entry. The entire purpose of this site is to help inform people of these crimes, and even one wrong word could result in the spread of misinformation. In the attempt to triple-check all known facts, posts sometimes take longer than anticipated. However, I feel I owe it to the victims and their families to be thorough. Please join me tomorrow for the next installment in this series.
Little is known about exactly what happened that day on the Monon High Bridge, but the few facts we do know are so incredible and disturbing that you could almost be forgiven for thinking this case couldn’t possibly be real. Sadly, the beginning is pure Grimm’s fairy tale: Two girls walking alone in the woods encounter a wolf in human’s clothing. The middle is more of a dystopian techno-thriller: Realizing they’re in trouble, one of the doomed heroines uses her phone to capture clues vital to solving her own murder.
But what happened that day to Libby and Abby is tragically real, and the end of their story hasn’t been written yet.
February 13, 2017: Friends Liberty “Libby” German (14) and Abigail “Abby” Williams (13) woke up late that morning after a sleepover at Libby’s house the previous night. Although the eighth graders would have normally been in school, all students in the Delphi Community School Corporation had that day off because both the previous Friday (February 10th) and Monday (February 13th) had been designated “Snow Make-Up Days” at the beginning of the academic year. However, since the winter had been mild and the allotted snow days hadn’t been used, the girls ended up with a four-day weekend instead.
And they were trying to make the most of it.
After spending Sunday practicing their softball swings, painting pictures in Libby’s room with Abby’s art supplies, and giggling late into the night, the girls were ready that next morning to start a new adventure. Libby, like many children, lived in a multigenerational household. Her home included her grandparents Mike and Becky Patty (who were also her legal guardians), father Derrick German, and older sister Kelsi. After Derrick made the girls breakfast, Libby asked her grandmother for permission to go to the Monon High Bridge Trail, a hiking spot just outside of Delphi’s city limits. Becky agreed but told the girls they would need to arrange a ride.
At first, it looked as if the girls would stuck at the house after all. Everyone in Libby’s busy family already had plans for the day. Then fate cruelly intervened.
When initially approached, Libby’s older sister Kelsi had refused the girls’ request, explaining that she was leaving to help her boyfriend clean a truck he hoped to sell before eventually heading to work. She already had a full day ahead of her and just didn’t have time to take the younger girls anywhere.
It was then, in a particularly heartbreaking twist, that Kelsi’s conscience got the better of her. The two sisters were close, and Kelsi felt guilty about letting Libby down. So she wound up relenting, telling her younger sibling that she could drop the girls off at the trails if they could arrange another ride home.
That decision must haunt Kelsi to this very day.
After securing the promise of a ride home from Libby’s dad, Derrick, the girls were on their way. Kelsi drove them to the Monon High Bridge, dropping them off near the trail’s entrance around 1:30 pm.
As she watched Libby and Abby walk away, talking between themselves, Kelsi had no way of knowing she would never see either girl alive again.
Please return for Part Two on Saturday. In the meantime, if you have any information pertaining to the murders of Libby German and Abby Williams- or the social media profile “anthony_shots” – please call the Delphi Homicide Investigation Tip Line (844-459-5786), the Indiana State Police (1-800-382-7537), or the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department (765-564-2413). You can also contact Abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com.
Claim to Infamy: Taking advantage of a day off school, junior high school students Liberty “Libby” German (14) and Abigail “Abby” Williams (13) were dropped off near the Monon High Bridge Trail by Libby’s older sister, Kelsi, at approximately 1:35 pm. About half an hour later, Libby posted a photo to her Snapchat of Abby walking the abandoned railroad trestle for which the trail is named. The girls were supposed to be picked up by Libby’s father around 3:15, less an hour after the Snapchat photo was posted, but they never showed. Increasingly nervous calls to their cellphones went unanswered.
After searching on their own without any success for a couple hours, the families reported the girls missing at 5:30 that evening. Crews comprised of local police, deputies, firefighters and the Department of Natural Resources canvassed the area until midnight. Authorities then halted their search for the night, announcing it was too dark to continue. Volunteers continued to comb the area long after the official search had ended.
Abby and Libby’s bodies were found the next day around noon. They were located on a wooded private property less than a mile from where they’d been dropped off the previous day. The causes of their deaths have never been released.
Random Disturbing Fact: Even though Libby somehow captured the man police believe to be the killer on her cellphone, they have yet to charge anyone with the murders.
Check back in a few days for a deeper dive on this case, including startling recent developments.
Anyone with information regarding this crime is encouraged to contact the Indiana State Police at (317) 232-8248or call the Tip Line (765) 822-3535.