Authorities are investigating whether an Indiana man who killed himself during a June standoff with police after allegedly raping a woman was involved in the abduction and murder of two teen girls in 2017.
Paul Etter, 55, of Tippicanoe County, Indiana, killed himself during a five-hour standoff with police in Lebanon, Indiana, on June 27, following a large-scale manhunt.
Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby told the Journal & Courier Friday that Etter’s ‘name has come up through the process’ when asked whether detectives were investigating Etter as the killer of teenagers Liberty German, 14, and Abby Williams, 13, who were abducted and found dead in 2017.
Authorities said Paul Etter, 55, who killed himself during a police standoff in June, might be a suspect in the 2017 death of two teenage girls who were abducted from a trail in Indiana
Leazenby added that authorities were investigating all possible suspects in the teens’ killing, in addition to Etter, however.
Etter killed himself in the wake of being wanted for allegedly sexually assaulting a 26-year-old woman after abducting her as she was changing a tire near a Girl Scout camp in Tippicanoe on June 22.
This isn’t the first time that Etter’s name has come up in connection with the teen girls’ murders.
Following Etter’s June death, Tippecanoe County sheriff’s Sgt. Thad Miller said that detectives had passed along information about him to Carroll County investigators per routine police practice, following his suicide, but that he did not think Etter topped the list of the potential murder suspects.
The bodies of Abby Williams, 13, (left) and Liberty German, 14, (right) were found in Delphi, Indiana, on February 14, 2017, a day after they were dropped off for a hike on a trail
A map showing the investigation into the girls’ disappearance and boy recovery
German posted this Snapchat photos of Abigail (pictured at left) at Monon High Bridge Trail close to when they started hiking around 2.07pm on February 13
At the time, Miller also noted that detectives had also shared information about other suspects with the Carroll County investigators, too.
German and Abby, of Delphi, Indiana, were abducted on February 13, 2017, after a relative dropped them off so they could go hiking near an abandoned railroad bridge.
At some point during their hike, German posted to Snapchat a photo of Williams on Monon High Bridge Trail. It would become the last photo taken of Williams before both girls were found dead.
The girls failed to show up at a pre-arranged pickup location, and their bodies were found the next day in a rugged, wooded area following a search.
Their manner of death has not been revealed and police have disclosed few details in their investigation, which they still consider an active case.
Authorities released a sketch of their prime suspect in 2017 (left), before releasing a notably different-looking sketch of their suspect in April 2019 (right)
Within days of their deaths, investigators released two grainy photos of the suspect walking on the abandoned railroad bridge the girls had visited, and an audio recording of a man believed to be the suspect saying ‘down the hill.’
That photo and video were found on German’s cellphone and recorded by her before she died. Police hailed her as a hero for recording potentially crucial evidence.
Authorities released this image of their prime suspect, which was recovered from German’s cell phone. She had managed to record a video of the man before she died
Five months later, in July 2017, an FBI artist’s composite sketch of the suspect was released. It depicts a white man with a prominent nose and a goatee, wearing a cap and what appears to be a hooded sweater.
Police said the suspect has reddish-brown hair, stands between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-10 and weighs between 180 and 220 pounds.
But, in April 2019, police released a new composite drawing of their suspect, which looks very different from the original image. This man is said to be between 18 to 40 years old. Police said that the new sketch more closely resembles the girls’ killer.
At the same time, police released the actual video of the man that was taken from German’s cellphone. They asked people to watch the way the man walked and listen to his voice. People were asked to tell police if either his gait or voice looked or sounded familiar.
A reward of more than $230,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest or arrests and convictions in the girls’ killings.
Anyone with information about their deaths is asked to call the Delphi Homicide Investigation Tip Line at 844-459-5786; the Indiana State Police at 800-382-7537; the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department at 765-564-2413; or email Abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com.