In the final moments before she disappeared, Liberty German turned on her cell phone’s video camera and recorded a man telling her, “Down the hill.”
German, 14, and her friend Abigail Williams, 13, were reported missing several hours later after they did not return from a walk on a Delphi, Indiana trail on February 13. The following morning their bodies were found by the nearby Deer Creek. Last week police released a grainy photograph of a person of interest on the trail. At the time, police did not say how the photograph had been captured, leading locals to speculate that the picture came from a trail camera, but on Wednesday cops said the image had come from German’s phone, recovered from her body.
Her quick-thinking might solve her murder, police say.
“That young lady is a hero, there is no doubt,” Indiana State Police Capt. David Bursten said of German during a Wednesday press conference releasing the audio clip. “To have enough presence of mind to activate the video system on her cell phone to record what we believe is criminal behavior is about to occur … there is no doubt in our mind that that young lady is a hero.”
Police have released a short audio clip from German’s phone. In it, a gravelly male voice tells German “down the hill,” over what sound like footsteps on grass. Police did not confirm whether the man in the still photograph is believed to be the same man who speaks in the audio clip, although they announced Sunday that they believe the photographed man participated in the girls’ murder.
In a Tuesday press conference, police suggested they had more information on the suspected killer, but were keeping details close.
“Just because we haven’t released information to the media doesn’t mean we don’t have more information,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Tony Slocum said. “Some of the facts we don’t release are only known to the person who committed the crime.”
Police have not indicated how long German was able to record her suspected killer, or what other clues she was able to capture. In releasing the audio clip, police hope someone might recognize the man’s voice. Despite living in a close-knit town of fewer than 3,000, Delphi residents have so far been unable to identify the man in the photograph.
"We don't know if the person's a local or a drifter who came in and left," Indiana State Police Sgt. Kim Riley told the Lafayette Journal and Courier, adding that police were looking for anyone who might have been spotted hitchhiking or walking along the town’s highway.
Other mysteries abound in the case, including how the girls were killed, and when.
German and Williams were last seen on Monday, February 13. Their middle school gave students the day off, to make up for unused snow days. One of the girls’ family members dropped them off at a hiking trail around 1 p.m., and agreed to pick them up several hours later. German and Williams were familiar with the trails, and hiked there often, family said. The Monon High Bridge, an old railroad bridge at the beginning of the trail was a popular hangout among local students, and the girls had previously uploaded pictures of themselves at the bridge to their social media accounts.
But instead of returning for pickup early that evening, the girls didn’t show. At 5:30, relatives called police to report the girls were missing. Police and volunteers began a sweep of the densely wooded area around the trail, to no avail. Authorities called off the search until morning, calling it impossible to find the girls in the dark woods. The following morning, a renewed search with diving teams and K9 units discovered their two bodies on private property, approximately a half mile from the trail where they were last seen.
At the girls’ middle school, students were sent home on Tuesday, as news of the murders spread.
“It is our understanding that the two bodies found today were those of our two missing Delphi Community Middle School students,” the school wrote in a letter sent to parents.
Even before police released the chilling audio, German’s phone provided a look into her final hours. Shortly into the hike, German posted two Snapchat photos from the Monon High Bridge. In one photo, her Williams walks along the bridge. She is the only person in sight.
The other photo looks down the bridge, where the railroad tracks vanish into thick forest. Within the following hours, an unknown man would order them into those woods and down a hill.