DELPHI — Police found two bodies on the edge of Deer Creek in Delphi around midday Tuesday after hundreds of volunteers had spent the morning scouring the region for two Carroll County teenagers who went missing the day before.
Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies released limited information in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. They said the two bodies were located at about 12:15 p.m. Tuesday about half a mile upstream from the Monon High Bridge area.
Police declined to comment further on the situation, citing the continuing investigation.
Indiana State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Kim Riley did not say whether the two bodies were those of the two missing girls, or whether the incidents were believed to be connected.
"We have not made positive identification of the bodies, and we're investigating this as a crime scene," Riley said during the press conference. "However, we do suspect foul play because of the nature of the bodies."
Riley, Delphi Chief of Police Steve Mullin and Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby addressed the discovery of the two bodies, as well as the toll the girls' disappearance has taken on the residents of Carroll County.
"It’s been a long several hours," Leazenby said. "It’s played tremendously on the emotions of this community."
The discovery came less than 24 hours after two 13-year-old Delphi girls went missing when they went hiking in the area of the Monon High Bridge.
Around 1 p.m. Monday, Abigail "Abby" Williams and Liberty "Libby" German were dropped off by a family member near the bridge, police said. When the girls didn't show up later that evening where they had agreed to be picked up, family members contacted police.
Emergency officials from multiple agencies began searching the area near the bridge Monday night, Delphi Fire Department Assistant Chief Curtis Borden said, and the search continued throughout the day Tuesday.
By mid-morning, the downtown Delphi Fire Department became a makeshift command center for volunteers assisting in the search. Crews were being sent out 10 to 12 people at a time to help cover an area of 20 to 25 square miles, Leazenby said.
Officials weren't sure just how many volunteers came, but sign-in sheets appeared to log hundreds.
Logansport mothers Karen Boucher and Denise Hoverman were among the volunteers.
Boucher is the mother of five girls between the ages of 5 and 25, including two stepchildren. When Boucher posted the story about a search team being assembled Tuesday morning on her Facebook page, her friend of 33 years contacted her to see if she wanted to go to Delphi to lend a helping hand.
Boucher was just leaving work in Lafayette and agreed to meet Hoverman halfway — at the fire department in Delphi.
“Having girls of our own, it just hit home,” said Boucher. “We just wanted to do whatever we could.”
The two arrived at the fire station shortly after 11 a.m., gathered maps of the search area and set out with a team of strangers to search fields near the school, nearly 2 miles away from the Monon High Bridge.
They had been instructed to stay away from the area where the girls had last been seen because search dogs were out. Authorities told volunteers they didn’t want to chance contaminating the scene.
“At first I couldn’t understand why we weren’t searching near [where they went missing],” said Boucher. “But once they explained it, it made sense.”
The fields were muddy and the search party was having difficulty contacting property owners to gain access, so the group mainly focused on walking along the edge of the road, peeking into barns and buildings along the way and scanning fields for any sign the girls had been in the area — a piece of clothing, a fresh-looking can or bottle, anything.
“Nobody was even talking,” said Hoverman. “It was very somber.”
After the discovery of the bodies, Riley said the search for the missing girls was scaled back, but it's still ongoing since the bodies have not yet been identified.
Tears and shock mixed during a prayer service and candlelight vigil for the girls Tuesday evening. Several Carroll County churches took part in the hourlong service, which crossed denominational lines.
Friends and family packed Delphi United Methodist Church, whether just to offer hugs for the girls’ families or to gather in grief.
Along with various prayers for first responders, teachers, students and the two families, the service included a Scripture reading from the book of Matthew.
As locals filed out of the church at the end of the service, one attendee talked about being strong in times of struggle. It’s that sense of community Mullin said he greatly appreciates.
"The people that participated in the search and the people who have made every effort to find the victims in this case, it’s much appreciated," he said. "I know this has had a terrible effect on our people, and I am pleased to see the community come out and help us in every way they have. I’m proud to be a part of this community."
Reach Kim Dunlap at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5150.