DELPHI, Ind. (INDY STAR) -- Wounds torn open by the deaths of two Delphi teenagers will never mend, a family member said Thursday.
But there's still time to bring justice to the person responsible, said Mike Patty, 14-year-old Liberty German's grandfather.
With his pastor and wife by his side, Patty addressed the media for the first time in nearly four weeks since the deaths of German and 13-year-old Abigail Williams.
During a news conference at the Carroll County Courthouse, Patty read a prepared statement on behalf of his family and Williams', who have yet to speak publicly.
"This horrible crime has torn a hole in our families that will never heal," he said. "It’s the small things that seem to hurt the most. It's just natural to holler for them come to dinner; or in the mornings to get up and get ready for school, then expect them to come through the door after school; the silence when we don’t hear their voice."
The teenagers were last seen Feb. 13 after they were dropped off near Monon High Bridge Trail, which runs along Deer Creek in a remote area east of Delphi.
Their bodies were found the next day roughly a half-mile upstream from an abandoned railroad bridge that spans the creek.
The ensuing double homicide investigation has caught a national spotlight, with least 25 agencies signing on to investigate more than 11,000 tips submitted so far.
A reward for information leading to an arrest has grown to nearly $250,000 thanks to contributions from corporations and individual donors.
So far, police have released two pieces of evidence to aid the public: a grainy image of a suspect and an audio recording of a man saying, "Down the hill."
Patty implored the public to take one minute to examine the image and recording, which were both captured by German's cell phone about the time of her death.
"A phrase that was jokingly attached to Libby in our family — from asking her to pick up her shoes, her school backpack, her coat — her first reply would almost always be, 'I will in a minute,'" Patty said. "I believe if she were able to speak, she would ask people to please give her the one minute she always asked for to really study the picture and listen to the audio clip."
German was heralded as a hero for sensing danger and turning on her cellphone camera to record her assailant. But Patty said Williams also is deserving of that title.
"Both the girls are heroes. They stuck together," he said. "I don’t know exactly what happened out there that day, but I imagine there was probably an opportunity for one or both to separate and try to make a break different ways. But those girls loved each other. They were good friends. Neither one of them left each others' side."
German and Williams loved to play softball, so donations made in their names will establish a scholarship and a memorial softball field in the area, Patty said.
"Just the day before all this happened, they had their equipment out playing catch, working on their batting in the backyard, going to the ball field to hone their skills for the upcomiung season," he said. "But they’ll never get to play a single inning again."
Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine, who has handled media requests for the past week on behalf of investigators, said that police have cleared 2,000 tips not related to the investigation, while another 1,500 still must be assigned to detectives.
The remainder of tips currently are being poured over by police, he said.
"This is emotional for all of us. I can tell you that it's not easy, and a lot of people are putting a lot of work into this," he said. "We're hoping that the tip's there, and we're going to find it."
Until then, the lack of closure will serve as a roadblock in a healing process underway for the family members and friends of German and Williams, Patty said.
"The pain will always be there forever, but this a hurdle that needs to be knocked down," he said. "With the help of law enforcement, I truly believe it will."
INDY STAR/USA TODAY NETWORK