Abigail J. “Abby” Williams, 13, and Liberty Rose Lynn “Libby” German, 14, went for a hike on February 13, 2017 in Delphi, Indiana. They were reported missing later that day, when they failed to return. Police didn’t suspect foul play until the next day, when their bodies were discovered. Incredibly, a photo and a video/audio recording of a man who police believe murdered the two teenage girls were found on Libby German’s cell phone. While more than 26,000 tips have flooded into the police, the Delphi killer remains at large. Here is a timeline of events tied to the unsolved double homicide.
February 13, 2017: Abby Williams and Libby German Went Hiking
February 13, 2017 was unseasonably warm, and Libby German and Abby Williams wanted to take advantage of their day off school. It was not uncommon for the two friends to explore a nearby trail, taking pictures of the trees, flowers, and each other.
1:45 p.m. – Libby’s older sister, Kelsi, dropped the two teenagers off at an abandoned bridge in Delphi, Indiana so they could go hiking on the Monon High Bridge Trail. Kelsi told the girls that she would return to the same bridge later that afternoon to pick them up.
2:07 p.m. – The two eighth-graders walked toward the northeast end of the bridge. At 2:07 p.m., Libby posted a Snapchat photo of Abby walking on the abandoned railroad trestle, which was 63 feet high.
3:00 p.m. – Kelsi returned to the designated meeting place to pick up the girls. Abby and Libby did not show up, so family and friends began to search for them in the area.
5:30 p.m. – The girls were reported missing to local police. A large search effort involving law enforcement and volunteers got underway.
February 14, 2017: Bodies of Abby Williams and Libby German Found
2:30 a.m. – The search was called off due to darkness. Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said he did not believe there was any reason to expect foul play or that the two teenagers were in danger. He said that the biggest challenge facing the girls was exposure to the elements.
9:00 a.m. – The search for Abby and Libby resumed. K-9 units and dive teams were brought in.
12:00 p.m. – Around noon, a volunteer found the bodies of Libby and Abby on private land less than a mile from the bridge where they were dropped off.
2:00 p.m. – During a press conference, police confirmed that they discovered two bodies, but did not release the identities. They did, however, admit that “foul play” was suspected in the deaths.
4:00 p.m. – Delphi Community Schools Superintendent Gregory Briles said that while school and law enforcement officials had not made an official announcement, it was his understanding that the bodies were those of Libby and Abby. Briles said that grief counselors were at the school and would be there for the rest of the week. Briles also said that school security would be enhanced.
February 15, 2017: Police Released Photo of Suspect
8:00 a.m. – Autopsies were conducted on the two bodies in Terre Haute. There was never any mention of how the girls died; no wounds or trauma had been reported. Police also did not say whether they were looking for a murder weapon.
10:00 a.m. – Sergeant Kim Riley of the Indiana State Police provided an update on the investigation. He said the authorities had conducted autopsies, but he did not yet confirm the identities or mention any suspects.
Sgt. Riley told parents to keep a closer eye on their children: “I think people need to be cautious and careful.” He added, “Parents should make sure they know where their children are and what their children are doing, and if nothing else, know what’s going on in their lives.”
3:00 p.m. – The Carroll County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police held a joint news conference, where they finally confirmed that the two bodies found the previous day were those of Libby and Abby. They did not release the cause or manner of death.
Police did not have any suspects in custody but did not believe there was any immediate danger to the community. Despite the reassurance, Sheriff Leazenby told people to “be more mindful and watch your surroundings a little closer.”
7:00 p.m. – Indiana State Police released a photo of a man walking on the trail around the time that Abby and Libby disappeared. The man was walking with his head lowered and his hands in his pockets. The image was grainy because it was cropped out of a larger picture taken by Libby on her cell phone on February 13. The rest of the image was never released to the public.
At the time, the police said that the man in the photo was not considered a person of interest.
Indiana State police called Libby a “hero” for having the presence of mind to take pictures and make recordings.
February 16, 2017: Police Served Search Warrant
6:00 p.m. – Police announced that they had set up a tip line for any information regarding the deaths of Libby and Abby.
6:45 p.m. – Funeral arrangements were made for the two teenage girls.
According to Abigail J. “Abby” Williams’ obituary, she enjoyed reading, camping, swimming, and riding ATVs. She also loved animals, especially her pet cat, Bongo. Abby was an artist who liked taking photos and drawing pictures. The obituary also said: “She and her good friend Libby were excited and looking forward to planning their next 4 years of school together.”
Liberty “Libby” German’s obituary said that she enjoyed swimming and playing soccer, softball, and volleyball. She also loved painting, doing crafts, and going on vacations. Libby was a band member and she had been preparing for the Academic Bowl with her High Ability class.
7:45 p.m. – Indiana State Police served a search warrant in connection with the deaths of the two Delphi teenagers. They searched a home on Bicycle Bridge Road. No arrests were made though.
February 19, 2017: Police Announced a Suspect
12:30 p.m. – Police announced that the man in the photo released on February 15 was now officially a suspect in the murder of Libby and Abby.
February 22, 2017: Police Released Audio Recording From Libby’s Phone
10:00 a.m. – Investigators revealed that they found audio and video footage on Libby’s cellphone. There was a short voice clip of a man saying, “Down the hill.”
Police were not sure which hill he was referring to or whom he was speaking to. Was it to Libby and Abby, or to someone else who was with him?
Authorities also said that they had more footage from Libby’s phone, but that they would not be releasing it because the investigation was ongoing.
March 17, 2017: Police Searched Property Where Bodies Were Found
12:00 p.m. – The Indiana State Police, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, and the FBI served a search warrant on the home and property of Ron Logan, the man who owned the land where the bodies of Libby and Abby were found.
Logan was questioned in connection with the two murders, but was released.
Coincidentally, earlier in the day that the two girls went missing, Logan was arrested after driving on a suspended license and violating probation. Later, he pleaded guilty to charges related to that incident and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
July 17, 2017: Police Released Sketch of Possible Delphi Killer
Libby had posted a picture on Snapchat of her best friend Abby walking across the deserted Monon High Bridge around 2:25 p.m. on the day they went exploring. Soon after posting the picture, the two girls were approached by a man who, alone or with help, probably murdered them.
Libby must have sensed they were in danger, because she recorded audio on her cell phone and snapped a picture of the man. There was also speculation at the time that Libby had recorded video of the killer, but that was not released by police.
Thanks to the picture and the input from witnesses who were there that day, police were able to create a composite drawing of the alleged Delphi killer.
Police described the suspect as a white male between 5’6” and 5’10”, between 180 and 220 pounds, and with reddish-brown hair. The suspect’s eye color was not released, but according to one witness, his eyes were not blue.
August 2017: Did the Case Go Cold?
In the weeks and months following the discovery of the bodies of Libby and Abby, police received thousands of tips. Commercials and billboards asked for help locating the Delphi killer. On top of that, a six-figure reward was offered.
Despite this, six months after the pair was first reported missing, no suspect had been identified.
The only image of the alleged Delphi killer was a grainy photo of a man walking near the bridge (taken by Libby) and a composite sketch. As mentioned earlier, a short audio clip was also released to the public.
DNA was reportedly collected from the scene of the double homicide, but it is not known exactly what that DNA sample consisted of.
The shortage of information released to the public has led many to believe that the case has gone cold. Investigators, however, have said that this isn’t true. Indiana State Police have reassured the public that they still have people working on the case and that new information continues to come in on a regular basis.
Police have confirmed that the information that has already been released to the public will probably be the only information to be made public. Investigators have said that they don’t want to compromise any future trial and that they want to keep copycat criminals at bay.
On the possibility of copycats, Sgt. Riley said, “We don’t want them coming in saying, ‘Well, I did it because I saw the video and this is how it was done.’ That is not going to be available to them. That information that is still on the video is in police information, and police are the only ones that are going to know about it.”
September 27, 2017: Police Arrested Daniel Nations
Daniel Nations, 31, was arrested in Colorado while driving with expired Indiana license plates. He was arrested near a trail in Colorado where a bicyclist had been shot to death two weeks earlier. Police believed that Nations could be linked to other crimes in the area. He had been accused of threatening people with a hatchet on a Colorado trail.
Authorities also suspected that Nations could be the Delphi killer. The day following his arrest over his expired plates, Nations was named a person of interest in the double-murder case. He was a registered sex offender and had been convicted for domestic battery and drug possession.
Becky Patty, Libby’s grandmother, said of Nations, “It is quite uncanny on how similar his features are to the sketch.”
September 29, 2017: Two Detectives Sent to Colorado
Indiana State Police sent two detectives to Colorado to question Nations.
When the media asked Nations if he was the Delphi killer, he shook his head to indicate “no.” Indiana State Police detectives were not willing to take Nations at his word, however, so they questioned him. And for good reason: he was a convicted sex offender.
Police confirmed that during the week that the two girls’ bodies were found, Nations was living homeless under bridges in Morgan County. Because Nations was homeless and a convicted sex offender, he was required to check in weekly with an investigator at the sheriff’s department.
“He came in on February 7, 2017 and then came in on February 14, 2017 and checked in,” said Captain Brent Worth.
The bodies of Abby and Libby were found on February 14.
While Nations checked in on the day after the murders, less than two weeks later he was put in the Morgan County Jail for failing to show up at a scheduled court appearance. After that, Nations moved to Johnson County, half an hour east, failing to notify authorities of his whereabouts.
October 11, 2017: Daniel Nations’ Wife Katelyn Spoke Up
Katelyn Nations said that her husband Daniel Nations certainly looked like the composite sketch that police released, but she could not commit to whether he was the Delphi killer.
“I have been with Daniel for six years now and looking at that [sketch]…there is a lot of similarities,” she said.
She said, however, that Daniel did not look like the suspect in the grainy photo walking on the bridge. “Not something my husband would wear. The dark blue jacket he did not have, he does not wear a hat like that. He only wears baseball caps,” she added.
That doesn’t mean Katelyn thought Daniel was in the clear. When asked if she thought Daniel could be the Delphi killer, she said, “Honestly I do not want to say that I can see him doing it or not.”
It is still unclear where Daniel was on February 13, 2017, the day Libby and Abby were murdered. “I had an ultrasound that day and I’m pretty sure he came with me…but I’m not 100% sure,” said Katelyn.
“February 14, when he went for his check in for his registration…I’m the person who drove him,” she said. “So I know he checked in.”
Katelyn said that Daniel knew about the Delphi murders because the two of them watched news coverage of the murders together. “I remember watching it with him and just sitting there and shaking my head and I said, ‘Can you believe this crap?’ He said, ‘No that is disgusting,’” Katelyn recalled.
October 17, 2017: Delphi Killer Story Featured on Dr. Oz
The Dr. Oz Show featured the story about Libby and Abby to raise awareness of the unsolved murders and to encourage the public to report any new tips on the Delphi killer.
February 4, 2018: Daniel Nations Returned to Indiana
Daniel Nations returned to Indiana on an unrelated warrant for failing to register as a sex offender.
He remained a person of interest, with Indiana State Police saying there wasn’t enough evidence to include or exclude him as an official suspect in the murders of Libby and Abby.
February 13, 2018: One Year Later
Although police didn’t have a suspect, they did have a lot of evidence about the Delphi killer. They had a photograph, a detailed composite sketch of his face, a recording of his voice, and a video of him. Indiana State Police had also teamed up with the FBI and local police to follow up on thousands of tips.
So why has no one been arrested? “I’d sacrifice almost anything in my life to be able to answer that question right now. I can’t,” said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter.
The investigation continues, with law enforcement serving multiple new subpoenas. “In the past 30 days, all I have been dealing with is subpoenas,” said Carroll County Prosecutor Nicholas McLeland. “I don’t think it’s been more than a dozen.”
McLeland started looking at the case only recently, and he said there was an overwhelming amount of information to digest. “I just want to be a new set of eyes to look at things,” he said. “And say hey, did we look at this? Did we take this angle?”
It was a year later though, and no new suspects. Was it time for investigators to release the rest of the information found on Libby’s phone?
The agency has, Carter admitted, thought of doing so. “They ask themselves that question every day,” said Carter. “That’s why we’ve had a couple of peer reviews done up there too.”
At this time, police stuck to the original plan, believing that the already-released information was good enough. “We’re one piece of the puzzle away from figuring out who this individual is,” explained Carter. “Somebody out there knows who this person is.”
He continued, “I don’t think there’s multiple pieces of the puzzle. … I think there’s one piece. And it’s having one individual with the strength to say that was my brother, that’s my dad, or that’s my cousin, that’s my neighbor, my co-worker. And I think we’re one piece away — one piece.”
June 1, 2018: Could Familial DNA Unmask the Delphi Killer?
Could familial DNA help break the case? DNA evidence has been collected from the scene of the double homicide, although it’s unclear exactly what that evidence consists of. But it could obviously be very important under the right conditions.
When police get DNA, they run it through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which is a national database. In order for there to be a match, the suspect’s DNA has to already be in the system. It’s not helpful finding first-time offenders.
This could be why there has been no arrest in the murders of Libby and Abby.
There is more that could be done though. According to Rockne P. Harmon, a retired district attorney for Alameda County, California, DNA tests for suspects are not being used to the fullest potential.
Crime Runs in the Family
When CODIS fails to get an exact match with the first search, a familial DNA search is often undertaken to look for DNA markers indicating a family relation. If someone on that list is a close match, another DNA search examines the Y chromosome.
Y chromosomes are passed down from father to son and are identical. If the familial search finds someone who has the same Y chromosome as a suspect, chances are good that the suspect is a father, son, or brother of the person who turned up in the familial search.
Familial DNA searches led to the arrest of a suspect in a 2015 murder in Scottsdale, Arizona. Familial DNA also led to the arrest of the “Grim Sleeper,” who murdered more than a dozen women in Los Angeles between 1985 and 2007.
Indiana State Police Maj. Steve Holland said that the state does not have the resources yet to do a familial DNA search. Apparently, their laboratories are understaffed and do not have the equipment to begin familial DNA.
Maj. Holland said, however, that familial DNA searches and phenotype DNA searches would be coming in the near future, perhaps as soon as in two years.
Investigators in Indiana have DNA belonging to the Delphi killer, but it hasn’t been processed through a familial DNA search (yet).
July 18, 2018: Is the Delphi Killer Related to a 1998 Cold Case?
Is a serial killer responsible for the deaths of Libby and Abby? If so, police haven’t said.
Police have not commented about any possible links between the 1988 murder of an eight-year-old girl from Indiana and the deaths of Libby and Abby—even after a suspect was arrested and confessed to the 30-year-old murder.
Despite the silence, Delphi investigators have worked closely with the detectives who apprehended John D. Miller for the rape of April Tinsley.
When asked if Miller was a suspect for the murders of Abby and Libby, Sgt. Riley said, “We have 1,000 names out there, and we’re still looking at all of them.” Riley admitted to being intentionally vague with his answer.
The Search Continues for the Delphi Killer
Indiana State Police, the FBI, and local police are asking everyone to look back to February 2017 and try to remember any major changes in the behavior or the appearance of people after the double homicide, anything that seemed strange or out of character.
“If a person started abusing drugs, if a sleep pattern has changed – any indication like that taken on its own doesn’t mean a thing, but when it’s put into a broader context of timing and location, maybe,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Massa.
Investigators are looking for anyone who:
- Changed their appearance, such as cutting their hair or drastically changing the way they dress
- Started abusing drugs or alcohol
- Started to become anxious or irritable
- Has closely followed this case in media to an extent that is “not normal”
- Started to have a different sleep pattern
- Has had many conversations about where they were on February 13, 2017
- Traveled unexpectedly after February 13, 2017
- Canceled an appointment around February 13, 2017
- Called in sick or suddenly skipped a social engagement around February 13, 2017
The FBI has a 24/7 tip line for the case, and it still receives 20-25 tips each day. The reward for information leading to an arrest in the murders of Abigail J. “Abby” Williams and Liberty Rose Lynn “Libby” German is now over $230,000 and continues to grow.
FBI Tip Line: 844-459-5786