Tue, Nov 29, 2022 3:32 PM
By ARLEIGH RODGERS and RICK CALLAHAN, Associated Press/Report for America
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An unspent bullet found between the bodies of two teenage girls slain in 2017 “had been cycled through” a pistol owned by the suspect in their deaths, according to court documents an Indiana judge ordered released Tuesday.
Court records were sealed last month at the request of the local prosecutor, after Richard Matthew Allen, 50, of Delphi, Indiana, was arrested Oct. 28 and charged with two counts of murder in the killings of Liberty German, 14, and Abigail Williams, 13.
The redacted probable cause affidavit released Tuesday states investigators seized Allen’s .40-caliber pistol during an Oct. 13 search of his home. Testing determined an unspent bullet found within 2 feet of one of the girls' bodies “had been cycled through” Allen’s pistol.
Investigators determined Allen had purchased that gun in 2001. Allen said in an Oct. 26 interview with police that he had never allowed anyone to borrow the gun, according to the affidavit.
Requests from the public and the media for additional information in the case were granted Tuesday by Allen County Judge Fran Gull’s order. The killings have haunted Delphi, a northwestern Indiana city of about 3,000, where Allen lived and worked at a local CVS store.
Gull wrote that “the public interest is not served by prohibiting access” to the documents and that witnesses’ safety and Allen’s personal information could be protected by redacting some parts of the records.
Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, had filed a brief with the court Nov. 21 urging Gull to unseal the affidavit and charging information that detail the evidence authorities have linking Allen to the killings.
The affidavit says investigators “reviewing prior tips” found Allen had been interviewed by an officer in 2017. At the time, Allen said that on Feb. 13, 2017 — the day the girls went missing — he was walking on a trail when he saw three “females” at a bridge called the Freedom Bridge but did not speak to them. He told the officer that as he walked from that bridge to the Monon High Bridge, an abandoned railroad bridge, he did not see anyone but that he was “watching a stock ticker on his phone as he walked.”
Allen was interviewed again by investigators on Oct. 13 and repeated he had seen three “juvenile girls” during his walk. He said he walked across the Monon High Bridge’s first platform, then walked back, “sat on a bench on the trail and then left.”
A relative had dropped off Liberty and Abigail — known as Libby and Abby — at a trail near the bridge close to their hometown, Delphi, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Indianapolis. Hours later, the girls failed to show up at their pick-up spot, and the next day, their bodies were found in a rugged area near the trail.
According to the affidavit, Allen said he had never been to the location where the unspent bullet was found between the girls’ bodies, that he did not know the owner of that property and “had no explanation as to why a round cycled through his firearm would be at that location.”
The document redacted the names of witnesses, including three juveniles who said they were on the trail on Feb. 13, 2017, and saw a male walking toward the bridge who was “kind of creepy.” One of the juveniles said “she said ‘Hi’ to the male but he just glared at them.”
Another witness told police she was traveling along a Carroll County road that day when she saw a man walking away from the Monon High Bridge wearing clothes that looked “muddy and bloody." He appeared to have been in a fight, the witness said.
Before Tuesday, state police had revealed incremental details about the investigations into the 2017 killings. The deaths of Libby and Abby were ruled homicides, but police had never disclosed how they died or what evidence they gathered. The probable cause affidavit does not state how the girls died.
Within days of the killings, investigators released two grainy photos of a suspect walking on the abandoned railroad bridge and an audio recording of a man believed to be the suspect saying “down the hill.”
Authorities also released an initial sketch of the suspected killer in July 2017, and then another in April 2019 based on cellphone video recorded by Libby showing a suspect on the bridge. The affidavit states investigators believe Allen was the man seen in the bridge video.
“As the male subject approaches Victims 1 and Victim 2, one of the victims mentions `gun.’ Near the end of the video a male is heard telling the girls, ‘Guys, down the hill,’” the affidavit states. “The girls then begin to proceed down the hill and the video ends.”
It adds: “The victims were forced down the hill by Richard Allen to the location where they were murdered.”
Earlier Tuesday, Allen’s attorneys filed a motion to relocate the case out of Carroll County, arguing it would be difficult to form an impartial jury there because of intense attention surrounding the case and because the county is small.
Andrew Baldwin, an attorney for Allen, said last week that the then-sealed affidavit was “flimsy” and that “our client is the wrong guy.”
Baldwin's office said he would not comment Tuesday in response to messages left by The Associated Press.
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Arleigh Rodgers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers