The Delphi Murders: Healing a Community

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 6:48 PM EST
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DELPHI, Ind. (WNDU) - As we approach the 5-year anniversary of the murders of Abby Williams and Libby German, many are clinging to hope that this case will soon be solved. As unanswered questions continue to grow, so does the number of people, nationwide, following this story.

Over the years, the topic took social media by storm, podcasts were made, and people from out of state were interested in staying in the town of about 3,000 to learn more.

Chris Covington lives in Iowa and this unsolved case grabbed his attention. So much so, he decided to stop into Delphi on his way to Indianapolis to check out the Monon High Bridge for himself.

“I think it is the fact that I like taking pictures. It is something I would have taken pictures if I was just there, for sure, but then also just to think that they walked on this bridge that I tried to walk on and there was just no way, like it freaked me out. I kind of don’t like heights, that they walk on this bridge, get to the end and they are kind of stuck. I think that is the intrigue too of like, wow, how it must have felt for them. You kind of put yourself in their shoes,” says Covington.

What does the Delphi community think? How has it changed over the past 5 years? 16 News Now’s Christine Karsten went to Delphi to look at how the murders of Abby and Libby rocked a community and just may have changed it forever.

Delphi is described by locals as an innocent, small-town community where business was booming, visitors were always welcome, and everyone was greeted with a smile and a wave.

“Small town but with amazing resources,” explains Delphi Mayor Anita Werling. “We have probably around 14-miles of trails and great connections between the downtown and our residential areas, outstanding architecture, just a friendly welcoming community.”

But in February of 2017, this safe community where no one thought twice about keeping their doors unlocked at night, was shook. Two young girls, just out for a walk on a trail, were murdered.

“The police were here, and the FBI were here and the whole town was turned upside down,” explains Laura Greene with Urban Chique Boutique.

“It was a gut-smack. No one could comprehend that this had happened in our community,” says Mayor Werling. “So, there was the shock initially and of course pulling together, trying to help each other, trying to help the family, everyone was just super aware of where they were that day.”

Within three weeks, police received more than 11,000 tips and tens of thousands of dollars for a reward came rolling in, but so did paranoia.

“A number of people in the community were pulled in to be asked questions. You know, I know of several who were, and they were happy to provide whatever information they could, but yes, there was a certain amount of looking over your shoulder and I am certain for some of the men in the community it was a time of angst. Are people looking at me and thinking, could he have done that,” says Mayor Werling.

“I think there was a lot of suspicion amongst individuals, but I also just think there was an overwhelming cloud of sadness that it made it difficult for people to even feel like they had the right to smile for a long time,” explains Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Julia Leahy.

And this didn’t help…

“We also believe this person is from Delphi. We believe you are hiding in plain sight,” said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter.

“For me and from some of the people I work with, the business owners, they were all a little leery, they were all wondering, has that customer been through my doors. Or have I seen that customer in here getting a map to go on the trails and I didn’t know it? So, we have tried since then to make sure we know everybody who has requested a trail map, I am keeping their information just in case something awful happens again,” adds Leahy.

As you can imagine, the questions of safety started swirling.

“Once this tragic event happened, people no longer felt safe to go on the trails,” says Leahy.

“You don’t see kids out walking around much anymore. I think people are afraid to let their kids go out and enjoy the outside,” says community member Joe McMasters.

Years later…

“Are they back on the trails now,” asks Christine Karsten

“They are, they are. I wouldn’t say they are by themselves. You know, most of the time you see people in groups now, like you said. It is not something individuals do as much by themselves as they used to and that isn’t such a bad thing,” answers Leahy.

“I checked with our police chief to confirm how safe we are, and he has been here for 31 years, as a policeman, and there have been three murders and two of them were of course Abby and Libby,” says Mayor Werling. “I have no problem walking the streets in my community at night. I have no problem walking the trails. I am not afraid, but I know many people are.”

That’s why over the last five years changes were made to help make the Delphi community feel safe again. They welcomed a police presence in the parks and are making sure they are patrolling. They have repaved the trials and added security cameras, mile markers and fences. They have also seen community members banding together to help one another.

“We had a self-defense class, specifically for women and teenage girls and we had about 50 go through that the year after and I think it was just a way to help empower people, to feel like they could get back out there and take their lives back,” says Leahy.

But healing takes time…

“There is an element in our community that will be wary and there are others who have just moved on and feel that it is as safe as it can be,” says Mayor Werling.

“From what I remember, there were indeed counselors brought into the schools and they were there for quite some time because kids just needed someone to talk to. Whether they were talking to them individually or in groups, but just to help them with their fears and their sorrow and I know there were even several counselors that helped our first responders and our police,” says Leahy.

Through the ebbs and flows of emotion, two things have remained the same. One, investigators are dedicated to solving this case.

“I think you have people who are frustrated and can’t believe there is not evidence to solve this, but then there are those of us who personally know those that have been involved in the case, that are investigating it, that we know they are doing the best they can and I think those of us are not going to waver in our support of them,” says Leahy.

And two, the Delphi community stands with the families of Abby and Libby.

“I think everyone wants to find justice for this family, but more importantly I think they are there to support them as well,” says Leahy.

“There is a tremendous amount of support for the new park and for what that is lending to the memory of the girls. Almost every year there are events that take place as fundraisers, but the community was violated along with the tragedy and for a small town that is a close-knit community, to have a tragedy like that strike, is something you don’t easily get over,” says Mayor Werling.

“It is still a wonderful place to live, but it is unfortunate how things happened, but I wouldn’t ever consider leaving here. It is a great place to be and in spite of what happened, I think we have all grown and learned from it and we are there to help the families and their friends to solve this,” says Leahy.

The town of Delphi is in a way, stuck in time. The mayor tells 16 News Now they would like for the community to move on, but that only happens when people are ready. She says she is not sure people will be ready until this case is solved. You can help bring this community closure.

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