The grandfather of one of the 13-year-old homicide victims whose bodies were found near an Indiana creek Tuesday says his family is grappling with their shock and grief.
“We’re not doing so well,” Mike Patty tells PEOPLE, a day after Indiana officials announced his granddaughter, Liberty German, and her best friend, Abigail Williams, were killed while on a hike earlier this week.
“She went hiking often,” Patty says of Liberty, who he raised alongside his wife, Becky. The girls were last seen on Monday afternoon when they were dropped off to hike near an abandoned railroad bridge known as the “Monon High Bridge,” outside of Delphi.
“We talked all the time [about safety], it was something that I stressed, but I guess not enough,” Patty says.
During the hike, Liberty posted a photo to Snapchat of Abigail walking on the bridge alone. The friends were supposed to be picked up by family later that afternoon but they never showed up to the pickup location.
Liberty and Abigail’s bodies were found by a search party less than a mile from where they were last seen alive, authorities said.
While police initially did not suspect foul play in the girls disappearance, on Tuesday they said it seemed foul play was involved in their deaths.
The girls’ bodies were found nearly 60 feet from the water’s edge on private property, police said. Officials have not commented on whether they had any obvious injuries or how they died.
“I cant imagine why [they were killed],” Patty tells PEOPLE, through tears. “I just don’t know — my mind is really mush right now.”
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Photos of Man Near Scene
On Wednesday night, Indiana state officials released photos of a man they want to question who was pictured near where the girls were the day they died.
“We are asking help from the public to help identify him so he can be contacted regarding what he might have seen,” state officials said in a statement.
The photos appear to show a white man dressed in light blue jeans and a blue jacket over a brown shirt.
Patty tells PEOPLE Liberty and Abigail were best friends. When they weren’t in class together, they were playing sports or hiking Delphi’s community trails, he says.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby described the crime as “disturbing.”
“There is somebody out there that did do this crime and we’re going to track them down,” Leazenby said.
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While police continue to investigate the girls’ death, Patty says he and his family are drawing strength from the community’s support.
“I can’t tell you how many people took off work, stayed out all night — even people we didn’t know — just to help us,” he says. “It’s been amazing. I wish there could have been a better outcome, but nevertheless, the support was overwhelming.”
Although investigators said on Wednesday they did not have any suspects in the case, Patty remains hopeful, putting his faith in the judicial system.
As for what he would tell Liberty, Patty says, “Just that I love her, but she heard that everyday — every morning, every night, multiple [times] a day.”