DELPHI, Ind. — In the three years since Abby Williams and Libby German were killed, investigators have fielded nearly 50,000 tips.
But one area that could hurt their investigation are online web sleuths who attach names and faces to online gossip attempting to solve the Delphi murders. Police warn that this practice could slow the case and put the public at risk.
Some online groups have upwards of 20,000 members, and accusations within the groups run rampant. Police stress, the bottom line is, if you have a tip, send it to the tip line.
“When you have people who are trying to solve this case with unorthodox methods, it could not only be detrimental to innocent people, but it could harm the case as well,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine.
Police concede social media is both good and bad in a years-long case like this one. It allows investigators to get messages to the public in real time. But an alternate side exists.
“We’ve seen some people trying to make their own connections by putting side-by-side photos on social media, and they’ll put names and where these suspects, that they believe, live,” said Sgt. Perrine.
On social media, accusations fly, including names, pictures and where people work or go to school.
“There are some issues with defamation of character,” Perrine cautioned.
One Delphi group on Facebook has 24,000 members; another on Reddit has 30,000. Countless smaller groups exist boasting thousands of members each.
“By publicly putting these pictures out there on social media, it’s not helping anybody,” Perrine said.
One common practice in the groups is posting side-by-side comparisons of the suspect image from police and someone who the poster believes looks like the suspect.
“The side-by-side comparisons can be a little tricky because, if you use your imagination, you can almost make anybody look like anybody else,” Perrine said.
This practice could slow down the investigation into who killed Abby and Libby.
“When somebody posts something online, other people take that post and send it to us as a tip, and so we’re getting duplicate tips that we have to vet every single one of those tips,” Perrine shared of the investigative process. “When we start getting duplicates of the same exact tip, it does slow the process.”
Police monitor social media and want those tips, but they want them sent to the tip line. If someone is named and cleared behind the scenes, they can get on with their life. If that accusation is public, it could follow them forever.
“That person’s name is forever connected to the Delphi case even if they have nothing to do with it,” Perrine warned. “It could be years down the line when they’re applying for a job, and somebody does an internet search for their name and their connection to this case, their alleged connection to this case, comes up.”
Police remind the public that investigators have access to tools that the public does not. Investigations are private, so the person who is responsible for killing Abby and Libby doesn’t know what police know.
“Often times people think that what they see on a tv show is real life, and that’s just not the case,” Perrine said.
The Delphi tip lines remain active:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tip Line: (844) 459-5786
- Indiana State Police: (800) 382-7537
- Carroll County Sheriff: (765) 564-2413
Police add, in addition to these tip lines, anyone with information can contact any police station in the country, and that information will be relayed to the local Delphi investigators.