2 Weeks After Slain Indiana Teens Went Missing, Community Searches for Answers: 'Shock, Fear and Numbness'
Officials believe the Liberty German recorded the suspect on her phone
Monday marked the two-week anniversary of the disappearance of Abigail Williams and Liberty German, the Indiana teens whose bodies were found near the side of a creek after they went missing while on a hike.
The girls deaths were ruled a homicide by police, but their alleged killer — whose image and voice were allegedly captured by Liberty before she was killed — remains at large. With more than 7,000 tips from the public since the deaths of Abby, 13, and 14-year-old Libby, officials and family members are clinging to hope the suspect will be caught.
“We’re just laying low right now,” Becky Patty, Libby’s grandmother, tells PEOPLE, adding that her granddaughter had a “heart of gold.”
Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby says investigators are staying positive and are asking the public for patience.
“We’re in the business of having good prevail over evil, and every one of us is focused on that goal,” he tells PEOPLE. “[We] have to make sure we’re turning over every stone.”
On the afternoon of Feb. 13, Abby and Libby were dropped off to go for a hike on a local community trail. When they didn’t show up at the prearranged pickup spot, Patty says, family members began canvassing the area.
Before it got dark, they called the police, who assembled search parties. Authorities initially did not suspect foul play in the girls’ disappearance but relatives knew it was unlike the girls to vanish on their own.
“Everything from that night is a blur,” Patty says.
The next day, Abby’s and Libby’s bodies were found 50-60 feet away from Deer Creek on private property, less than a mile from where they were last seen alive. Leazenby would not comment on the cause of death but at a press conference the day of the discovery, officials said the way the bodies were found showed signs of foul play.
“You could’ve heard a pin drop when that call came through,” Leazenby tells PEOPLE. “This is in essence small town USA, and no one saw this coming.”
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Days later, police released an image of a man who they subsequently named the main suspect. Leazenby says the image is a still from a video taken by Libby moments before her death.
An audio clip from the video of a man’s voice, believed to belong to the suspect, was also discovered. The 14-year-old has since been hailed a “hero” for her quick-thinking.
“Both girls are heroes,” Patty tells PEOPLE. “They were both heroes, neither one of those girls would have left the other.”
After reviewing evidence, Leazenby says it appears the girls initially took pictures for fun but later became uncomfortable and recorded the video as a way of ensuring evidence.
In a six-second audio clip released by police, a man’s voice can be heard apparently saying “down the hill” on loop. (The clip can be heard here.)
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Abby and Libby were familiar with the hike, Patty says, which is part of a 10-mile community trail created by the city of Delphi and considered a hangout for local teens. According to her grandmother, Libby would often visit the trail with her older sister to take pictures of the scenic area. Her family always stressed the importance of safety, her grandfather previously told PEOPLE.
Investigators are continuing to urge the public to call in tips, no matter how small. Although they first believed the killer to be a local, Leazenby now says their suspect could be from anywhere. He says everyone should remain alert and be watchful of their surroundings.
Despite the public focus on the investigation, Patty says she and her family have been able to mourn Libby privately, thanks to the community’s understanding.
“[There’s] a lot of shock, fear, and numbness throughout the community but the positive aspect is that this community is very tight knit,” Leazenby tells PEOPLE. “They’re relying heavily on one another, praying for one another so there’s a lot of that positive [attitude] in that aspect.”
Anyone with information should email ABBYANDLIBBYTIP@CACOSHRF.COM or call 844-459-5786.