CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. – A judge will tackle several issues during a pair of hearings Friday related to the Delphi murder case.
Indiana State Police announced the arrest of Richard Allen on Oct. 31. He’s charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Abby Williams and Libby German, whose bodies were found on Feb. 14, 2017, after the girls went for a walk on the Delphi Historic Trails. Family members reported them missing after they failed to arrive at a pre-arranged meeting place on Feb. 13.
Police didn’t make an arrest in the case for more than five years. The murders garnered national attention, with true crime enthusiasts trading theories online as investigators searched for the girls’ killer. Evidence released to the public, including a grainy photo of the suspect and a voice recording (“Down the hill”), fueled online speculation, as did a pair of composite sketches.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors will appear in court Friday as Judge Fran Gull, an Allen County judge assigned to the case after the original judge recused himself, considers several issues related to the case.
Here’s what we know about the proceedings.
Will Richard Allen appear in court?
Allen is expected to appear in person at Friday’s hearing in Carroll Circuit Court.
The public got its first look at Allen during his court appearance on Nov. 22. During that 30-minute hearing, Gull heard a motion from Allen’s attorneys for a bail hearing.
Prosecutors argued that the probable cause affidavit should remain sealed; Gull took it under advisement and ultimately decided to release a redacted version of the document.
Which issues will the judge consider Friday?
There are four considerations for attorneys during Friday’s court proceedings. Gull is expected to hear arguments on a gag order, a change of venue, a broad discovery request from the defense and another defense request for additional funding for investigators.
What’s happening with the gag order?
Carroll County Prosecutor Nick McLeland filed a motion for a gag order during the Nov. 22 hearing. Gull didn’t immediately rule on the motion, although she eventually approved a preliminary gag order that barred anyone associated with the case from talking about it until the Jan. 13 hearing.
It went into effect on Dec. 2.
The gag order barred anyone associated with the case, including Allen, his defense attorneys, prosecutors, family members, court staff, law enforcement, from making “extra-judicial statements” to the public. It came after Allen’s attorneys issued a press release speaking out against the evidence cited in the probable cause affidavit released at the end of November.
What’s happening with the change of venue?
Allen’s defense team filed a change of venue request in November to move the trial away from Carroll County.
His attorneys cited “extensive media attention” and the “highly publicized” nature of the case from its inception through Allen’s arrest. The case has received extensive local, statewide and national coverage; podcasts and social media have also extended its reach.
They’re asking the court to move the proceedings out of Carroll County, suggesting that moving at least 150 miles away would ease concerns about a tainted jury pool. Delphi’s relatively small size—about 3,000 residents—would make it difficult to find an impartial jury, Allen’s attorneys argued in their motion.
What’s happening with the discovery request?
On Dec. 30, Allen’s attorneys filed a discovery request seeking a trove of information.
The lengthy “Supplemental Motion for Discovery and Request for Rule 404 and Rule 405 Evidence” filed on Dec. 30 seeks the names and addresses of all witnesses involved in the case, including recorded or transcribed statements. Allen’s attorneys also want the names and addresses of individuals who may have knowledge of the case but aren’t being called as witnesses by the state.
The motion includes 29 components. It seeks everything from phone records and cell phone location data to written reports and witness accounts connected to the case, along with any investigatory information obtained by law enforcement.
What’s happening with the request for funding investigators?
Allen’s attorneys requested additional funding for investigators as they work to prepare the defense case for their client. In court documents filed in December, his attorneys said he couldn’t afford the costs of representation and associated expenses.
They’re seeking money to pay for expert witnesses, transcript fees and investigator costs. The attorneys asked that their hearing and associated filings be kept under seal, arguing that revealing the information in public could jeopardize their case.
The judge granted the request to keep motions and hearings associated with public funds sealed.
When are the hearings?
The proceedings are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 13, at Carroll County Circuit Court. Judge Gull is expected to hear motions on the change of venue, gag order and discovery requests at that time. The public and media will be able to attend the proceedings, although seating will be limited, and electronic devices are strictly prohibited.
Another hearing will follow at 11 a.m., according to a court order issued by Gull on Jan. 9. The hearing will involve the motion on public funding for investigators. Those proceedings are confidential and will be closed to the public.
What’s next in the case?
Allen has been held without bond since his arrest.
His attorneys requested a bail hearing during the Nov. 22 hearing, saying they’d read the probable cause affidavit and saw no evidence of proof or strong “presumption” of guilt. They’re asking Allen to be “released on his own recognizance” or to have a “reasonable bail.”
Gull approved the request for a bail hearing, which is scheduled for Feb. 17.