Delphi Snapchat murders: Who is James Chadwell? Indiana man who raped girl, 10, suspected in deaths of teens

The horrific double homicide left authorities puzzled, especially because one of the two photos that Libby shared on Snapchat had shown Abby alive and crossing an abandoned railroad bridge


                            Delphi Snapchat murders: Who is James Chadwell? Indiana man who raped girl, 10, suspected in deaths of teens
James Chadwell III (L) might be the suspect in the grainy photo (R) walking on the bridge near where victims of Delphi double murder were last seen alive (Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Dept/Indiana State Police)

TIPPECANOE, INDIANA: An Indiana man is being investigated after being accused of locking a naked 10-year-old girl in his basement, allegedly linking him to the unsolved murders of two teens who were killed while out hiking in 2017, shortly after posting Snapchat footage of a man following them. 

Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby told ABC News in an interview that there are "several factors" in the murders of Abby Williams, 13, and Libby German, 14, that led them to James Chadwell III, who was recently booked for kidnapping and sexual assault. 

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The 42-year-old Lafayette man allegedly got a girl into his home with the lure of petting his dogs on April 19. He subsequently forbade the child from leaving and went on to strangle and molest her in his basement for an hour before authorities managed to rescue her. According to the Daily Mail, detectives probed and canvassed the neighborhood where the girl, 10, had gone missing. They eventually reached Chadwell's home and asked for his permission to search his residence, which he allowed.

Upon reaching the basement, officers noticed it was secured with a chain lock. They broke it open and found the missing girl, who was "visibly distraught and crying, with her clothing on the floor beside her," according to an affidavit. The girl allegedly told authorities that Chadwell had "tried to kill her." That said, Chadwell's capture and arrest led investigators to compare the case's hallmarks to the 2017 killings of William and German in Delphi, located just 20 miles away.

During questioning, the girl reportedly said Chadwell used his dogs to lure her and struck her on the head several times. He then "tried to kill her" by putting her head in a chokehold, she said.  As reported by ABC News, the child told police that she was bitten, bruised, sexually assaulted, and even blacked out at one point.

However, Chadwell is now facing attempted murder, child molestation, and kidnapping charges. He has entered a plea of not guilty and is due back in court on June 10. Sheriff Leazenby told ABC News that while there "might be" a connection between the incidents, they haven't been able to establish a definite link as yet. In fact, nobody has been charged in the murders of the Delphi eighth-graders that took place on February 13, 2017.

A sketch of the suspect in the unsolved Delphi murders from February 13, 2017 (Indiana State Police)

The horrific double-homicide left authorities puzzled, especially because one of the two photos that Libby shared on Snapchat had shown Abby alive and crossing an abandoned railroad bridge. A search party found the duo dead near a river, about 18 hours after they had been reported missing on their remote hike.

Authorities subsequently released a grainy photo of a potential person of interest in the pursuit of the killer or killers. In 2019, detectives said they suspected that the man in the photo was navigating the same trail on the day the girls went missing. They released a short video clip obtained from Libby's phone, depicting a grainy photo of the suspect walking on the bridge nearby where the girls were last seen alive.

"We're a very tight-knit family with love pouring throughout our lives,” Libby's grandfather Mike Patty said in 2017. “Our minds at this stage are stirred in the deepest sorrow you can imagine. It is my sincere hope that no one experiences what my family is going through at this time. Liberty was taken from us and this will forever be a void in our souls. Yet we find faith in our God," he added.

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