“Down the hill.”
For more than two years, investigators in Indiana have pored over those three words and a video of a man taken from the cellphone of a teenage girl who was found murdered with her friend in the woods. The man’s voice and image in the phone were among thousands of clues and tips that the authorities have investigated since the bodies were discovered on Feb. 14, 2017.
But on Monday, law enforcement authorities released more material to the public, saying they had still not solved the case. The new material included about one second of video of the man walking behind the girls, his hat pulled down low, in the hopes that someone watching might recognize a quirk in his gait or a familiar mannerism, Superintendent Douglas G. Carter of the State Police said.
All the material had been secretly captured by Liberty German, 14, before she and her friend Abigail J. Williams, 13, were “brutally murdered,” the superintendent said.
Speaking at a crowded public meeting attended by the girls’ families and the news media in Delphi, Superintendent Carter urged the audience to “watch the mannerisms” of the man, who was shown stepping unevenly along deteriorated wooden tracks on an old railroad bridge.
A new sketch of the suspect was released as well as a new version of the audio recording, in which a slight inflection in the man’s voice can be detected as he says the word “guys,” in addition to the words “down the hill.”
Superintendent Carter said the suspect was believed to be from Delphi, and between the ages of 18 and 40. He said they might have already interviewed him during “thousands and thousands” of hours of investigation.
In fact, he said, the suspect might even be at the public meeting.
“We believe you are hiding in plain sight,” Superintendent Carter said.
“We know that this is about power to you,” he added. “We try so hard to understand how a person could do something like this to two children.”
The public meeting on Monday was part of a fresh push for leads in the case that has shaken Delphi, a city of around 3,000 residents about 60 miles north of Indianapolis. On Monday, the State Police also published an announcement urging the public: “Look at the sketch, listen to the audio, watch how this coward walks on the high bridge and send your tip to this email: Abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com.”
“We are coming for you and there’s no place for a heartless coward like you to hide that gets his thrill from killing little girls,” Superintendent Carter said.
The authorities have not said how the girls, who were eighth-grade students at Delphi Community Middle School, were killed.
The case traces back to about 1 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2017, when they set off for a walk to the Monon High Bridge, an abandoned rail bridge near a 10-mile trail known as the Delphi Historic Trail. It was a Monday, but there was no school that day because of winter break, and the girls had arranged to be picked up in the area that afternoon. They never showed up.
Frantic family members called the authorities. Search parties were organized, and at about noon on Feb. 14, a team discovered the bodies of the girls in a wooded area near the trail, about a half-mile upstream from the bridge, the police said.
The Delphi Police Department, the Carroll County Sheriff, the State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation initiated an investigation. Grief counselors were stationed at the middle school, where the girls had participated in sports teams and the school band. A tip line and an initial reward of $41,000 were set up. The reward has since ballooned to $240,000.
About a week after the girls’ bodies were found, the authorities released the three-word audio and the enhanced image taken from Liberty’s cellphone of the man following them in the hopes that someone might recognize a suspect.
About a year after the bodies were found, investigators had fielded more than 30,000 tips, and followed up on more than 1,000 people of interest from almost every state, the police said. Superintendent Carter said the authorities were also looking for the driver of a truck that had been abandoned near a highway on the day the girls went missing, but he did not elaborate on the connection to the case.
Officials have praised Liberty for having the presence of mind to take what appeared to be a secret recording of their killer.
“This young lady is a hero, there is no doubt, to have enough presence of mind to activate the video system on her cellphone to record what we believe is criminal behavior that is about to occur,” Sgt. Tony Slocum of the State Police said in 2017.