“You know what, Susan? I think I’m ready to walk on the bridge. To go back,” Becky Patty told reporter Susan Hendricks after a suspect was arrested in the murder of her granddaughter, Liberty “Libby” German, 14, and German’s friend, Abigail “Abby” Williams, 13, in Delphi, Indiana.
Abby and Libby’s families spent years fighting for answers after the teens were found slain on February 14, 2017, near Freedom Bridge, not far from where they were dropped off a day earlier. Their slayings sparked an investigation that spanned years and implicated multiple people before Richard Allen’s arrest in October 2022. Allen is a resident of Delphi and was an employee at a pharmacy who, at one point, helped Libby’s aunt print funeral photos.
Though court documents reveal that an Indiana State Police Laboratory tied a unspent bullet found near the bodies to Allen’s gun, he has denied knowing or murdering the girls, even though he admits to being on the trail. Many other details remain undisclosed even as a trial date nears.
Since few details were publicized, the focal point of this case was footage Libby filmed with her cellphone that reportedly shows her killer approaching the two girls and saying, “Guys, down the hill.” Abby and Libby obliged—and were led to their deaths, according to court documents.
“Why two innocent girls and what makes someone capable of doing this? I don’t know if we’ll ever get that answer of why this happened,” Hendricks says.
In court documents filed on September 18, 2023, Allen’s attorneys contend that he had nothing to do with the murders and that the girls died as part of a “ritual sacrifice” by a white nationalist group that he has no connection to.
Hendricks, a journalist, former news anchor and author of the book Down the Hill: My Descent into the Double Murder in Delphi, speaks with A&E True Crime about the case that thrust a small Indiana town into the national spotlight, and how she bonded with the victims’ families as they pressed for answers—and justice.
Police released two sets of sketches. The person depicted in the first sketch was eliminated as a person of interest. The second sketch, released two years after the murders in April 2019, was publicized alongside a grainy video taken by Libby. How did this series of events confuse the public’s perception of the crime?
[Law enforcement] will say in terms of the investigation, which was so secretive, that the second sketch came about because the more they dug into the case, the more they felt that sketch was the sketch of the perpetrator—the man on the bridge. The second sketch that was released in 2019 was actually the first one that was drawn. The first one, investigators came up with after speaking to a witness. After releasing the second one, they went back and decided it was actually the first one the public should use.
We don’t know if they really had someone come forward at that particular time, or if this was designed for the killer to see and do something and they would be alerted to that behavior …Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said to me several times that one day we will know, but right now we can’t because it may interfere with the investigation.
During an early press conference, Indiana State Police Public Information Officer Tony Slocum said ‘murderers,’ as in plural. Was that verbiage significant?
I think that was a mistake when he said ‘murderers’ because when he got up to the podium to end the press conference, he did say murderer. When asked throughout the six years— even when Richard Allen was arrested —if there was more than one person involved, prosecutor Nick McLeland said there could be other actors. We don’t know [since] the investigation is still open, and no one has been found guilty.
They were open to any tips from the public, and that I believe was so difficult during this investigation: Asking for help from the public and saying [that] no tip is insignificant, but then not giving any information [to the public]. They wanted information without [providing] updates, and that became frustrating for the public.
Why was it so important that Libby filmed her alleged killer?
I’m hoping that evidence—seeing the person on the bridge and for Libby to have the wherewithal to hit record—is something highly significant [at trial]. We were able to see a person she may have thought was suspicious. We hear a person’s voice, and we see that person, although grainy and from far away and how they walk.
[Carter has said] it’s unheard of in a murder investigation to see and hear the person, but also to not know who they are in such a small town. I believe that really drew in the public…[that] this young girl hit record right before she and her best friend were murdered.
Mike, Libby’s grandfather, said to me, ‘Libby did her part, now we have to do ours and find this guy.’
Why did it take so long to arrest Richard Allen for Abby and Libby’s murders even though he was interviewed in 2017 and allegedly placed himself on the trail where the slayings occurred?
The investigation aspect of this is much more difficult than the public and media realize. If it does turn out to be Richard Allen, there is no connection [to the victims], I learned while writing this book and interviewing several people. We don’t know why he put himself on the bridge. Maybe he was trying to get out ahead of it, [thinking] some people saw him. I believe that will come out at trial.
I think because he was a dad and husband who worked at [a pharmacy] no one suspected [him]. Even though we have examples of this happening with serial killer BTK, we [still] expect them to look like monsters.
We’ve seen throughout history, [killers] can compartmentalize and get away with it. I think it’s hard for the human brain to grasp that someone could be so evil and then pretend not to be in another part of his life.
[Editor’s note: Allen has pleaded not guilty and denies any involvement with the murders.]
In “Down the Hill,” you wrote that police being tight-lipped about their investigation not only led to Delphi citizens distrusting them, but one another. How was this exacerbated by claims that the culprit was likely someone in their community?
Libby took a video of that man walking on the bridge and we heard him say, ‘Guys, down the hill.’ Going to the bridge and seeing how it’s almost hidden, I believe investigators right away thought it was a local.
The town is less than 3000 people and if you cut that in half, 1200 I’m estimating are men. And that age range…They said 18 to 40. It could be anyone.
Libby’s grandmother [Becky] and Aunt Paris said, even at a stoplight they’d look over and say, ‘Does that look like the person that could be him?’ That’s how they began to live as the days, weeks and years went on.
As a reporter, what did you think about authorities’ refusal to reveal a motive or Abby and Libby’s cause of death?
Early on, they stated they didn’t want any false confessions and that could happen if they give too many details away. They wanted to have that information that only the murderer would know [regarding] a cause of death.
The probable cause affidavits of Richard Allen and Ron Logan [who owned the property where Libby and Allen’s bodies were found] stated there was a lot of blood. We still don’t know why that unspent bullet was at the crime scene. [It’s also unclear] if the gun was used to scare the girls, intimidate them or get them to follow [the killer’s] order down the hill, and then a sharp weapon was used.
Kegan Anthony Klein was an online catfisher who admitted to targeting young children and he was the last person in contact with Libby. How does his correspondence with the victims further complicate this case?
Police interviewed him early on in the investigation and then he was arrested on child pornography charges and sentenced to 40 years. Investigators didn’t say much, but when no one was arrested, connected or charged with the murder of Abby and Libby, then that to me said this person was not involved.
There was a lot of speculation because of the lack of information out there. It got to be problematic for investigators. People were naming names and putting pictures online next to the sketches. That hurt the investigation, [and] I believe investigators said less and less as the years went on.
[Editor’s note: Klein was not charged in relation to the Delphi killings.]
How do you believe Allen’s trial will play out?
During that hearing (in June 2023), the prosecution and defense mentioned that Richard Allen “confessed”…[to] his wife and mother. The defense is saying this is because of the conditions at the prison. He’s not in his right state of mind. The prosecution is saying he was recorded confessing to his wife, and she hung up abruptly.
I’m not sure how this plays out. The trial is scheduled for January 2024. Is that enough time for the defense to gather what they need, or will it be delayed as a tactic?
How are Libby and Abby’s families processing the upcoming trial as it will be their first chance to learn what happened to the girls? What sticks with you from your encounters with them?
I remember Becky saying to me after [Allen’s arrest] that she thought she would be thrilled because that had been the families’ focus…to find the person. Once there was an arrest, I believe she felt, what was her purpose? It gave her a drive to look for this person. But once someone was in custody, another feeling came over—the realization that it doesn’t bring Abby and Libby back.
What surprised me the most was their ability and their resolve to fight for Abby and Libby no matter what. The horrible days, the times when their mind is able to go to that moment, thinking about the girls’ last moment and what they went through…but to continue and fight for these girls and say, ‘They need justice. We need justice.’
[Editor’s note: Allen will stand trial starting on January 8, 2024.]