This Day in Infamy: Birth of a Serial Killer

April 7, 1947 – On this day in Indiana Infamy, Herbert Richard Baumeister was born in Indianapolis to Herbert E. Baumeister and his wife Elizabeth. Almost 50 years later, he was posthumously identified as a serial killer believed to have been responsible for the deaths of at least a dozen men, some of whom he disposed of on his Westfield property.

This Day In Infamy: A Mother Wrongly Convicted of Murder

Kristine Bunch, photographed during her incarceration

March 4, 1996 – A Decatur County jury deliberated only three hours before sentencing 22-year-old Kristine “Kristi” Bunch to 60 years in prison for the death of her son Anthony.

Although Prosecutor William O. Smith had not presented evidence of a motive during the trial, Indiana Fire Marshals Bryan Frank and James Skaggs asserted they’d found evidence “the fire was deliberately set, that accelerants had been used to cause the fire, that there were ‘pour patterns’ in the burned-out home where accelerants had been poured, and that the fire had started in two separate locations, one of which was the bedroom in which Anthony was sleeping.”

A report by William Kinard, a forensic chemist with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, had further substantiated those findings.

Ten years later, Bunch filed a petition challenging her conviction. It was then revealed that Kinard had initially disagreed with Skaggs and Frank’s conclusion of arson. However, key portions of the ATF chemist’s report were later deleted or altered in order to coincide with the opinions of the fire marshals.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Bunch’s conviction on March 21, 2012, and all charges were dropped later that year.

By then, she had already lost seventeen years of her life behind bars.

Kristine, who was pregnant at the time of her arrest, is a free woman today and has reconnected with the son she gave birth to in prison.

This Day in Infamy: The Meat Market Murder

1934 article from The Indianapolis Star

February 26, 1934 – The body of Lloyd C. Gleason (40) was found in the basement of his Yorktown meat market by his sister, Pearl Jefferson. The butcher had been shot three times – once in the forehead, once behind the left ear, and once in the back of the head – and had bruises consistent with a beating. Additionally, his lower left leg and shoe had been severely burned. “A long-barrel .22 caliber pistol” was found nearby.

The victim’s son, James “Marvin” Gleason (21), was taken into custody the next day. Marvin admitted to ownership of the gun but initially denied having anything to do with his father’s death, despite saying the older man had been an abusive alcoholic and adulterer who had caused the family hardship. Marvin’s story changed a few hours later, however, when police found his bloodstained clothing.

This time, Marvin claimed he’d been in an altercation with his father over a bottle of whiskey, and the fight had culminated in the shooting. He also admitted to trying to dispose of his father in the furnace, but he’d had to abandon that part of his plan when he couldn’t lift the corpse high enough to clear the furnace door.

After Marvin confessed, his mother told reporters her son had previously been to a psychiatric clinic in Detroit. Dora Gleason also claimed a physician there had recommended committing Marvin to a sanitarium to cure his dementia praecox, a generic term used for schizophrenia at the time, but the family lacked the funds to do so. The young man, who had been awarded but did not accept a Rector Scholarship at Depauw University, stayed instead at his grandparents’ home after graduation.

Within days of Dora’s statement to the press, Marvin gave another confession, this time implicating his mother as an accessory. He claimed that he and his mother had “reached an understanding” that he would kill his father, and she’d given him the idea of cremating the body in the furnace. On March 5th, one week to the day after the death of her husband, Dora was arrested . A grand jury later failed to indict her though, and charges against her were dismissed.

The following May, Judge L. A. Guthrie ruled Marvin Gleason “mentally incapable of standing trial” and confined him to the hospital for the criminally insane at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, where he would remain for almost six years. After his release, he changed his name and went to stay with his mother, who had remarried.

Breaking News: Chuck E. Cheese – A Traumatizing Place to Be a Kid

Only the second-most terrifying thing at Chuck E. Cheese’s this week

At least, that was the case for patrons when a murder occurred at a Chuck E. Cheese on Indianapolis’s far eastside early Sunday evening.

Shots were reportedly fired from outside into the children’s-birthday-themed restaurant around 5:30 p.m, shattering an exterior window and creating chaos as children screamed and parents attempted to rush them to safety. One witness, Jessie Humphries, said she tried to escape out a back door only to find it locked.

“After that, nobody knew where to run, didn’t know who in the building was shooting,” said another woman who was there celebrating the birthday of her twin granddaughters.

Thankfully, only one casualty occurred. A man tentatively identified as Anthony Tinnin was found dead in the parking lot. Police believe he had been inside the Chuck E. Cheese then walked outside shortly before the shooting started. It’s unknown at this time if he was intentionally targeted.

Many of the children present were further tramatized when they saw the victim’s body as they exited the scene.

The perpetrators fled in a white SUV and remain at-large.

Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact IMPD Detective Lottie Patrick at 317-327-3475 or lottie.patrick@indy.gov. You can also anonymously leave information with the Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana by calling 317-262-TIPS (8477).

Nursing Home Resident Charged with Rape and Murder of 80-yr-old Hospice Patient

Last Wednesday, February 9th, 60-year-old Dwayne Anthony Freeman faced his initial court appearance in connection with the rape and murder of a fellow nursing home resident.

An employee of Homestead Healthcare Center entered the room of 80-yr-old Patricia Newnum in the early morning hours of February 2nd to distribute medication. It was then that another resident, Freeman, was discovered on top of Newnum. He appeared to be having sex with the hospice patient while holding a pillow over her face. When confronted, Freeman reportedly smelled of alcohol and “rambled incoherently.” He reacted violently when an empty bottle was found in his room.

Newnum was subsequently declared dead in her bed, and an autopsy later ruled her death a homicide. She had died from asphyxiation due to smothering.

According to prosecutors, Freeman’s story changed several times before he finally admitted to having intercourse with the victim but claimed it was consensual and initiated by Newnum. However, employees of the facility told police that before her death, Newnum was unable to move on her own and her ability to speak was limited. Freeman also had a history of speaking inappropriately to women during the three months he’d lived at the facility. Incredibly, he’d even told staff the night before the assault that he was “going to get me a woman tonight.”

An automatic not-guily plea was entered on Freeman’s behalf Wednesday, and a public defender was assigned to him. It’s unknown at this time if the facility will face negligence charges in connection with Newnum’s death. Local news station WTHR reports that the facility, located at 7465 Madison Avenue, faced more than $100,ooo in federal fines last year. Federal site Medicare.gov states it has received 26 complaints that resulted in citations against Homestead Healthcare Center within the last three years.

Dwayne Freeman is scheduled to appear in court again March 30th.

This Day In Infamy: Dismembered Bodies Discovered in Linwood Avenue Residence

Murderous siblings Kenneth and Kari Allen

February 9, 2005 – After receiving a tip from Missouri authorities, Indianapolis police discovered three bodies buried in basement of a Linwood Avenue residence.

Siblings Kenneth (29) and Kari (18) Allen had been pulled over for speeding in St. Charles County, Missouri the previous day. During a search of their rental car, several suspicious items – including bloody bedding, credit cards, and identification belonging to an elderly couple – were found. When questioned, Kari abruptly admitted to helping her brother kill not only their grandparents, Leander and Betty Bradley, but also their mother, Sharon Allen. Indianapolis police executed a search warrant based on the information and found all three bodies beneath freshly-poured concrete in the basement of the Bradleys’ home.

The motive for all three deaths was the same: Kenneth had wanted his grandfather’s life savings to pay off gambling debts. He pleaded guilty in January 2010 and received a sentence of life in prison without parole, plus 130 years. Kari pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit murder. In April 2010, a judge sentenced her to 38 years in prison, plus two years in community corrections programs.

The Hollandsburg Murders: A Statement by Attorney Nile Stanton

Quick note: Although I hadn’t originally planned on posting this, a conversation in the comments section made me think of it, so I thought I’d share. There’s so much about The Hollandsburg Murders that will always remain a mystery, but the following was written by acclaimed attorney Nile Stanton about his experience representing Roger Drollinger, one of the convicted murderers. The statement was originally published on the now-defunct website occasionaljustice.com and has not been altered from its original form.

THE VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE: 30 Years Later
by Nile Stanton
April 4, 2007

On Valentine’s Day of 1977, four young men (Gregory Brooks, Ralph Spencer, Raymond Spencer, and Reeve Spencer) were brutally murdered in a house-trailer near Raccoon Lake in Park County, Indiana. The murders were not perpetrated to eliminate witnesses to a robbery or some other crime. They were not revenge for some perceived injustice. As far as I know, the Raccoon Lake slayings constituted the first mass murder committed in America in recent times “just to see what it’s like” to kill people.

At the time the murders took place, I had been representing Roger Clay Drollinger for about two years — in several cities and on a wide variety of criminal charges. Roger and his father, Nathan, had come into the office one day to talk to my law partner, Ronald E. Elberger, about the possibility of representing Roger in a civil rights suit involving alleged police harassment. Ron had clerked for Abe Fortas on the United States Supreme Court, was the president and one-man-army of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, as well as a black belt in karate — not someone to take lightly, even if he was 5′ 2″ and might weigh 117 lbs. soaking wet. As it turned out, I got the brunt of representing Roger Drollinger, since he had innumerable more criminal charges against him than valid personal civil rights claims. In fact, Roger Drollinger managed to get into so much trouble that my law partners used to kid me that he was like an annuity, a lifetime income.

I was in the middle of representing Roger in a drug trial in Crawfordsville, Indiana, when the Valentine’s Day murders took place. The drug trial had been going on for a week. That Sunday I drove from Indianapolis to meet with Roger in my room at the General Lew Wallace Motel in Crawfordsville, Indiana ?- a motel named after the city’s most famous citizen, the author of Ben Hur. Since Roger was to take the witness stand the next morning in the drug trial, Roger and I reviewed his testimony. Also in my room were Michael Wright, Danny Stonebraker, and a highly impressionable teenager named David Smith who obviously revered Drollinger as a role model. I’d met them all before since they were Roger’s best friends.

On the Monday morning after Valentine’s day, Roger testified in his own behalf at the drug trial; and that evening Judy Kirtland, my co-counsel in the case, and I watched the evening news together and learned of the brutal shotgun-slayings of four young men that had taken place the night before less than twenty miles away. (I had invited Judy to help me represent Drollinger in the drug case because of the technical nature of the defense — entrapment. Judy was one of the smartest people I’d ever met and a straight “A” student from kindergarten through law school, in addition to being former Editor-in-Chief of the Indiana Law Review.) Normally calm, analytical, and pragmatic, Judy went berserk and screamed, “The whole world is going crazy!” Her outburst seemed appropriate: Only a week earlier, Tony Kiritsis, whom I would also later represent, had commandeered the nation’s attention by kidnapping a mortgage company executive in broad daylight and, on live TV, had marched him down the streets of Indianapolis with a sawed-off shotgun wired around his neck. And now this?!

Roger Drollinger’s drug trial jury didn’t buy the entrapment defense. Being reasonable people, it was probably hard for them to believe that someone could have been tricked by police into exchanging drugs for money three times in a row. So, Roger was found guilty but shortly thereafter failed to appear for sentencing. A nation-wide manhunt for him began, not because he failed to appear in court for sentencing but because Danny Stonebraker had confessed to his role in the St. Valentine’s Day slaughter at Raccoon Lake and had fingered Drollinger as the leader of the gang of killers.

Although I had met with Drollinger countless times and felt that I knew him well, Stonebraker’s accusations came as a total shock to me. I was incredulous. Yes, in the course of representing Roger, I had talked to most of his friends and several of his enemies and had at considerable expense, borne by his wealthy father, caused two private detectives to study Roger’s life and activities in considerable detail. That he wanted to become as well known as John Dillinger, I was aware of. That Roger and his gang had thrown a cement block out of a car at a passing motorcyclist, I knew. That they had hidden in bushes along country roads and jumped out in front of cars brandishing shotguns to stop and rob them, I also learned. And that Drollinger had once put a loaded .44 magnum up to a friend’s head and threatened to blow his brains out if he didn’t follow orders. Still, knowing all this and being aware that Roger was undoubtedly a dangerous sociopath, I was initally unprepared to accept that he was capable of organizing and participating in mass murder. But over time the facts became clear that he was.

Two weeks before the killings, Drollinger and the three other gang members had cut themselves and made a blood oath: Each of them promised to kill someone, and if one of them did not the other gang members would kill that member of the gang. The reason for killing? Just to see what it was like to kill someone. They all obtained shotguns, and Michael Wright rented an Opel Cadet for the occasion. Then, upon leaving my room at the General Lew Wallace Motel in Crawfordsville, Indiana, on St. Valentine’s Day of 1977, Roger Drollinger, Michael Wright, Danny Stonebraker, and David Smith roamed around the western Indiana countryside hunting for victims — any victims — to feel whatever it feels like to deliberately snuff out human lives.

On an isolated road near Raccoon Lake, the Drollinger gang spotted a house-trailer with two relatively new cars parked outside. They parked the Opel Cadet down the road and crept back to the trailer. Drollinger cut the electrical wires, and a few moments later the three other gang members burst through the door. They shined flashlights on Betty Spencer and three of her boys and ordered them to lie on the floor and not look around. After he felt assured that it was safe for him to enter, that he would not be seen by any witnesses, ringleader Drollinger entered the trailer. A moment later, they heard a car pull up outside, and he commanded silence. Another of Betty Spencer’s sons entered and was promptly ordered to join the others on the floor.

One of the killers asked the victims if they had any money or guns. Yes, to both questions. One gang member pocketed the money, about $30, while another located a rifle and bent the barrel in the toilet. Then Roger Clay Drollinger walked behind each of the teen-aged boys who were on the trailer floor, tapped each one on the foot, and asked, “How old are you, son?” “How old are you, boy?” After that, he ordered his cohorts to turn off their flashlights and put them aside. Four shotguns boomed repeatedly, blasting the brains and blood and life out of the four boys on the floor. But Betty Spencer’s wig saved her life. A few pellets grazed her scalp, and her wig flew off. The killers thought her life had gone with it. But as one of her sons died, she heard his blood gurgle out as he slowly and faintly whispered, “Oh God, I’m flying . . . Oh God, I’m flying.”

Leaving the grisly, blood-splattered, scene the Drollinger gang decided to take one of the new cars parked outside. With two gang members in that car and two in the rented Opel, they drove for several miles and then left the stolen car at the side of the road with the keys in the ignition. The killers laughed as they abandoned the car, planning and hoping someone else would take it, get caught by police, and end up facing murder charges.

The next morning Roger Drollinger appeared in court in Crawfordsville to testify in his drug trial, acting as though nothing at all had happened the night before.

A little over a month later (after he had failed to appear for sentencing for the drug conviction), on the Friday before Easter of 1977 at about five in the evening, Roger Drollinger telephoned me at my law office. He was on the lam and had somehow managed to avoid being captured in the intensive nation-wide manhunt for him. In his first call, Roger told me that he was thinking about surrendering, which I encouraged him to do. He said he would call me again later in the evening. While waiting for a call I doubted would ever come, I discussed some options for Drollinger’s surrender with the only other person who hadn’t yet left the office that Friday: Martin Wayne Bradbury.

Ah, Martin Wayne. This was a guy I really loved in many ways: an absolutely loyal friend, a bright and daring young man, a true rebel, a joker and a smoker, a borderline hill-billy and, well, . . . a criminal. So, I must avail myself the opportunity to digress briefly.

Driving a car down a country road with the lights off and the trunk full to the brim with marihuana one night, a police car came up behind him with its red lights flashing. Martin Wayne stopped, jumped out, ran back to the police car, flipped his wallet open for a split-second, and heatedly shouted, “Federal surveillance! DEA! We’re following some drug dealers! You f*** this up, you’re in a world of trouble!” And then dashed back to the car and took off again with the cops electing not to follow after that. He was one ballsy dude.

When I first met him, Martin Wayne Bradbury was a prisoner at the Indiana State Reformatory. He worked in the “writ room,” where prisoners do legal research; and, when he was released, I hired him to help me on several cases and for several reasons. He knew how to talk to criminals, had a fair understanding of criminal law and could do excellent research. But, when I hired him, my law partners were somewhat skeptical — thought he might steal from the petty cash drawer or take a typewriter or something. I assured them that Martin Wayne would never stoop to that level, although he might try to steal the office building we were in.

The reason Martin Wayne Bradbury went to prison was for the attempted theft of a huge earthmover. Who knows what he was going to try to do with it? Take it to a pawnshop? Move earth? Anyway, as Martin Wayne was driving it away from a construction site in broad daylight, an Indiana State Policeman pulled up in his car. Martin disarmed the policeman and told him to take him someplace, which the cop did. Thus, when he was apprehended later, Martin Wayne was charged with two crimes: kidnapping a state policeman and attempted theft of an earthmover.

At the time, kidnapping was a crime that carried a life sentence. The two essential elements of the crime which the State had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to secure conviction were that a person be (1) moved from one place to another (2) against his/her will — that is, with force or the threat of force. Well, at Martin Wayne Bradbury’s trial, the he-man macho state cop just couldn’t bring himself to admit that he had been “forced” to do anything, or even that he was “in fear” of the use of force. The policeman made it sound like he was driving Martin Wayne somewhere sort of as a favor. Understandably, the jury found Martin not guilty of kidnapping but guilty of attempted theft. The verdict, however, did not set well with law enforcement types. And thereafter Martin was assuredly not liked by cops. But . . . I liked him, hired him, and greatly appreciated his counsel and assistance.

Now, to get back to the main story . . .

Roger Clay Drollinger did call me back on that Friday before Easter of 1977, saying that he had decided to surrender and that he wanted me to pick him up by myself. He promised me that he would turn himself in on the Monday after Easter if I would arrange for him to spend the week-end with his wife first. So, while I traveled to southern Indiana in my TR-7 sportscar, Martin Wayne Bradbury went to talk to Roger’s wife. Martin Wayne was to wait with her at her home until I telephoned and told them where to meet Roger and me in Indianapolis. Martin and I had agreed that I would call him between 9:00 and 9:10 p.m., and that if I did not call he was to immediately telephone the state police and FBI and give them a description of my car, the license number, etc., and tell them where it was that I was supposed to meet Roger Drollinger.

When I arrived at the little church just off I-65 near Jeffersonville, I parked in front and got out of the car — leaving the passenger door open, as Roger had told me to on the phone. I went in and looked around, but no one seemed to be in the church even though the lights were on. I returned to my car, waited a few minutes, and then went back in. This time a minister was there and I asked for “Bobby” as instructed. When the minister told me that no “Bobby” was there, I thought that I might be in the wrong place. I stalled around for a while, then went back to my car. Drollinger was there sitting in the passenger seat. The first thing I noticed was he needed a shave and stunk like a family of sick rats.

As we drove north to Indianapolis, I told Roger that Martin Wayne and I had determined that rooms were available at various points on the outskirts of the city and one in the center and that he could choose to stay in any one he wanted to, hinting that staying in the center might be best — since it was probably the last place anyone would expect him to be. Roger selected that hotel. (What I had not told him was that I knew the particular hotel quite well and was aware that both exits could be clearly observed from one strategic location.) A few minutes before 9:00 p.m., we stopped at a filling station, and I called Martin Wayne to tell him to take Roger’s wife, Kathy, to the downtown hotel. It was then that I realized how careless, how stupid, I had been: If the station had been closed, or the telephone out of order, Martin Wayne would have called in the Mounties and both Roger Drollinger and I, and perhaps a few policemen, would almost certainly have died that night.

That Easter week-end, Martin Wayne and I met with Roger several times at the hotel on North Meridian Street, northwest of White River. At all times, I had one or more private detectives situated outside watching the exits. Had Drollinger set foot outside, every local, state, and federal law enforcement agency around would have been notified immediately. But, Drollinger didn’t attempt to leave. Just as I had kept my promise to him to arrange for him to spend Easter week-end with his wife, Roger Drollinger kept his promise to me and surrendered to the FBI in my office on Monday morning.

The way the surrender took place was interesting. Since Drollinger had been getting tons of terrible publicity over the previous several weeks (yes, merely being accused of being the leader of a gang that has committed mass murder does tend to generate some bad press and hostile feelings), what Roger wanted to do was have a press conference before being taken into custody. He wanted to proclaim his innocence to the public on live TV. Thus, at his insistence, I phoned a local Indianapolis TV station and arranged for a prominent newsperson, Linda Lupear of Channel Six, to come to my office. Drollinger sat at my desk, his wife beside him holding their baby, with me standing to the side. It was quite a scoop for the station: a live interview with one of the most wanted men in America. Tears in his eyes, Roger Drollinger talked about his wife and baby and professed his innocence. Then, with the TV camera focusing on my telephone, Drollinger called the FBI and said he wanted to surrender. All in all, a dramatic performance — one I would later be accused of having choreographed, though all the credit actually belonged to Drollinger.

Before the FBI arrived at my office, I had Drollinger stand up and prove to Linda Lupear that he was not armed. Per my instructions, Martin Wayne Bradbury met the FBI agents in the reception room and then led them back to my office. The three FBI agents were quite professional in every respect and, although they did not have to, permitted me to accompany Drollinger as they took him out of my office, down the elevator, and over to the FBI lock-up in the Federal Building.

A few days later, Drollinger was taken to Park County to be arraigned on the murder charges, the court proceeding wherein an accused is read the charges against him and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. Hundreds of people were milling around the courthouse, and a cordon of Indiana State Police troopers surrounded Drollinger and me to escort us through the crowd into the court. As we pushed through the crowd on the courtyard?s sidewalk, a frail, white-haired woman approached, caught my eye, and whispered, “You son-of-a-bitch.”

After Roger Drollinger’s appearance in the Park County court, where the prosecutor opposed a change of venue and claimed that Drollinger could get a fair trial (yeah, right), my client was promptly taken to Crawfordsville, Indiana, to be sentenced in the drug case I’d been representing him in when the Raccoon Lake slayings took place. The courthouse in Crawfordsville was roped off to keep the crowd at bay, and as Roger and I went up the courthouse steps they chanted, “Kill him! Kill him! Jail’s too good for him! Kill him! Kill him! Jails too good for him!” It made me think of what it must have been like to represent a black man accused of a violent crime in the South in the 1930’s.

I continued to represent Drollinger through several pre-trial proceedings, but when judges set his trial date and that for Tony Kiritsis to begin at the same time, I withdrew as Roger’s lawyer. He was subsequently tried before a jury in Hartford City, Indiana, convicted and sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison and is presently incarcerated in Westville. I am absolutely opposed to the death penalty. However, I must admit that I agree with what Judge Bruce Bade said when he sentenced Drollinger: If anyone ever deserved the death penalty, Roger Clay Drollinger did.

Breaking News: Criminal Mastermind Is Accused of Wearing Court-Ordered GPS Monitor to Commit Murder

Andre Johnson, the absentminded accused

An Indianapolis man is accused of murdering his childhood best friend in an argument over a woman. And, police say, he wore a court-ordered GPS monitor to the crime scene, documenting his presence.

According to reports, 29-year-old Andre Johnson was wearing a GPS bracelet due to a previous criminal conviction when he drove to Indy’s Carriage House East Apartments last Sunday night. After lying in wait for two hours, Johnson allegedly ambushed his childhood best friend Marlin Kiser, also 29, firing at least eight shots at the man before fleeing. Kiser, a father of three, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Unfortunately for Johnson, IMPD detectives were able to locate security camera footage showing the shooter leaving the scene in a 2006 Ford F-150 truck that they were later able to tie to him. Even more unfortunately for the accused, he apparently failed to take his own GPS monitor into account when committing the murder. Police say the data provided by the monitor proves he was in the area for two hours prior to the shooting.

Johnson is being held without bond in the Marion County Jail. Although he’s been booked on a preliminary charge of murder, formal charges are still pending.

The victim, Marlin Kiser

Deep Dive: The Delphi Murders, Part 3

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.

Photos taken by Liberty German, 14, moments before her death.
Her best friend, Abigail Williams, (photo to the right) died at her side.

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.

Update: The Murder of Damari Perry

Damari Perry, let down by the system and murdered by his own family

The mother of Damari Perry, a six-year-old whose body was recently discovered in Gary, appeared in court last Wednesday. Jannie M. Perry, of North Chicago, was charged with first-degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death and obstructing justice. Her bond was set at $5 million.

Two of the child’s siblings have also been charged in connection with the crime. 20-year-old Jeremiah Perry has been charged with aggravated battery, concealing a homicide and obstruction of justice. An unidentified juvenile sibling also faces unspecified charges.

According to Lake County prosecutors, on December 29, 2021, Damari’s mother told relatives that he needed punished. The little boy was consequently forced into a cold shower for an extended period of time, after which he vomited and became unresponsive. His body was then wrapped in a trash bag, and thermal burns indicate someone attempted to burn him. Finally, Damari’s charred corpse was taken to Gary and left near an empty house before the family falsely reported him missing. An autopsy later determined his cause of death was hypothermia.

Perhaps most tragically, the responsibility for Damari’s death reaches far beyond those who stand accused. It has been revealed that Jannie Perry lost custody of her four other children due to allegations of domestic violence in 2014. Because the case remained open when Damari was born on December 30, 2015, he was placed into foster care at the time.

Perry regained custody of her children in 2017.