DELPHI, Indiana – Two bodies found in the woods Tuesday were identified Wednesday as those of a pair of teenage girls reported missing Monday evening. Police are investigating the deaths as homicides.
Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said in a press conference he could not recall a previous double murder or child murder in the Delphi, Indiana, area.
Liberty German, 14, and Abigail Williams, 13, had been dropped off Monday afternoon at a hiking trail east of Delphi, and when family members arrived to pick them up later in the afternoon, the girls weren’t there.
Search parties scowered the area Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, and the search ended early Tuesday afternoon when the two bodies were found about three-quarters of a mile from where the girls were last seen, police said.
Leazenby and Indiana State Police Sgt. Kim Riley, both of whom spoke in the press conference, said they could provide few details because the investigation is ongoing. However, Riley noted that in he and Leazenby, who have worked at their respective agencies since 1986, have never seen an investigation this large.
In addition to ISP and the sheriff’s office, the Delphi Police Department and an FBI evidence recovery team — a total of 25 to 30 investigators, Riley said — are involved in the investigation.
Law enforcement has not taken anyone into custody in connection to the murders, but investigators have received hundreds of tips, Leazenby said.
“There is someone out there who committed this crime, and we’re going to track them down,” he said.
Though the bodies were discovered Tuesday, law enforcement waited until they received autopsy results Wednesday to identify the bodies. No members of either girl’s family spoke at the press conference, but Leazenby said the parents had suspected the bodies belonged to their daughters even before identification.
“They were in pretty much belief that it was their children, but when you hear it from an official, it hits home twice,” he said.
Delphi, a small town near Lafayette, Indiana, has a population of less than 3,000, according to the 2010 census. Many people, including law enforcement officers, in the community know the girls’ families, Riley said in a press conference earlier Wednesday morning. He used to patrol the county, and he said he knows people in the area who are worried about their own children in the wake of the crime.
Riley said people should be cautious, but he stopped short of saying parents should be more concerned than usual.
“You should be always worried about your children, today or any day,” he said.
Authorities did not send out an Amber Alert for the girls when they were reported missing. Riley said the situation didn’t meet all the necessary criteria for an alert, and even if one had been released, because of the short distance between the girls’ last known location and their bodies it would not have helped.
The town was mostly hushed Wednesday, though it showed a few signs of the crimes. Several television media vans lined the street near the town’s municipal building. A sheriff’s deputy blocked the road leading to the area where the girls were last seen.
A sandwich board in front of the Sandwich Shop, a local restaurant, referenced the murders with a short request: “Prayers for our community!”
Just before the afternoon press conference started outside the municipal building, two police vehicles, silent but with lights on, turned the corner across the street. In their wake followed a line of cars. The first was a hearse.
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