Attorneys for the man charged with murdering two girls near Delphi, Indiana suggested on Thursday that their client was arrested in part due a political race for county sheriff in the jurisdiction where the crime happened.
That was one of several assertions defense counsel Brad Rozzi and Andrew J. Baldwin issued in a 3-page-long press release that was distributed to Law&Crime on Thursday.
Their client, Richard “Rick” Matthew Allen, 50, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Abigail “Abby” Williams, 13, and her friend Liberty “Libby” German, 14. The girls vanished while walking the Monon High Bridge Trail near Delphi, Indiana, on Feb. 13, 2017. The trail traverses an abandoned stretch of what once was the Monon Railroad and crosses an old trestle over a small river or creek. The girls were found dead the next day in an area near the trestle.
The press release issued by Baldwin and Rozzi asserts that it was Allen who came forward to law enforcement in 2017 to reveal that he was walking on the trestle the day the girls vanished. The attorneys characterized Allen’s decision to speak with the constabulary on his own volition as one of several signs of his “innocence.”
“After Rick shared his information with law enforcement officials, he went back to his job at the local CVS and didn’t hear from the police for more than 5 years,” the defense attorneys wrote.
They then posited one theory as to why Allen was arrested when he was: a federal lawsuit filed against the local sheriff’s department which alleged problems with a major case:
The next time Rick heard from the police was in October, 2022. This was approximately two weeks before a contested Sheriff’s election and within days of a federal lawsuit filed against the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office by its former second in command, Michael Thomas.
In the lawsuit, Thomas claims that he (Thomas) “had made suggestions and offered assistance in the investigation of a high-profile child homicide investigation” but those suggestions and offers were rejected by the Sheriff. Thomas further claimed that the Sheriff and others in the department feared the disagreements with Thomas would become publicized as a result of the political campaign for Sheriff.
Thomas claims in the suit that he was ultimately demoted and replaced by Tony Liggett, who later that year won the 2022 election for Sheriff. Furthermore, Thomas claims he was also removed from high profile cases.
Rick was ultimately arrested on or about October 28, 2022.
The federal lawsuit in question remains ongoing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. It alleges various constitutional and civil rights complaints. It does not directly mention the Delphi Murders case; the reference in the above quote is open to some interpretation — though presumably not many child murder cases happen in the local environs.
The authorities have alleged that an unspent bullet they claim was likely ejected from Richard Allen’s handgun was found near the girls’ bodies, but the science used to make such comparisons is scientifically shaky. A redacted copy of a probable cause affidavit released this week admits that the comparison between the bullet and Allen’s gun is “subjective in nature,” and Law&Crime noted this week that some courts have strictly limited the use of such comparisons because they do not meet the standard used in those jurisdictions to measure the reliability of scientific evidence or expert testimony.
Allen’s attorneys — surely aware of the issues at play given the available case law on the subject — said on Thursday that they “anticipate a vigorous legal and factual challenge to any claims by the prosecution as to the reliability of its conclusions concerning the single magic bullet.”
The press release continues:
In the 5+ years since Rick volunteered to provide information to the police, Rick did not get rid of his vehicle or his guns and did not throw out his clothing. He did not alter his appearance; he did not relocate himself to another community. He did what any innocent man would do and continued with his normal routine.
The defense then directly refuted several claims made by the state in court and in the redacted probable cause affidavit:
The prosecutor mentioned, at the last hearing, his belief that others may have been involved in the killing, yet there was no mention in the PCA [probable cause affidavit] about a second suspect involved in the killing. The defense is confused by such discrepancies in the investigation and will be in a better position to respond as more discovery is received.
Rick Allen owned a Ford Focus in February of 2017. His Ford Focus is not, in any way, similar to the distinctive look of the PT Cruiser or Smart Car that was described by the witnesses. It seems that the CCSD is trying to bend facts to fit their narrative.
The probable cause affidavit suggests that a car described by witnesses as being parked near a building — a PT Cruiser in one description or some type of a “‘smart’ car” in another — is the same car Allen drove because “those descriptions are similar in nature to a 2016 Ford Focus.”
According to the press release, the defense isn’t willing to make that leap from one model to another. However, the defense also didn’t acknowledge in its press release that Allen allegedly admitted to the authorities that he “parked his car on the side of an old building” when he was walking the trail where the girls disappeared on the day they vanished. The witnesses said they say the vehicle in question — whose precise description remains an apparent matter of debate — was “parked in an odd manner at the old Child ProtectiveServices building.”
Here, another potential discrepancy occurs: the affidavit says Allen allegedly told the police he was parked near an old Farm Bureau building.
The affidavit also attempts to ameliorate that discrepancy: “Investigators believe Mr. Allen was referring to the former Child Protective Services building as there was not a Farm Bureau building in the area nor had there been.”
The defense attorneys asserted on Thursday that they felt compelled to tell their client’s side of the story after “five-plus years” of press conferences by law enforcement authorities tasked with solving the murders.
A judge is considering a gag order in the matter, the press release notes.
The defense attorneys also said the public has provided the defense with tips about the case and encouraged additional tipsters to come forward.
The defense press release is available in its entirety here.
Law&Crime’s extended coverage of the Delphi Murders case is available here.
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