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.