INDIANAPOLIS — Instead of keeping the public “in the dark” regarding the arrest of Richard Allen in the Delphi murder case, authorities should have been more prepared for the intense interest a key development in the high-profile case would draw.
That’s the legal opinion of Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt, who was critical of how Indiana State Police handled a request for information about Allen’s arrest.
Lafayette Journal & Courier reporter Ron Wilkins filed a formal complaint on Nov. 8 about the handling of Allen’s detainment. The filing came a week after Indiana State Police, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Carroll County Prosecutor’s Office announced Allen’s arrest in a news conference.
According to the complaint, Wilkins submitted a public records request on Oct. 28, the Friday before the Oct. 31 arrest announcement. Indiana State Police denied his request on Oct. 29, despite Indiana code mandating that such information be disclosed within 24 hours of an arrest.
Allen had been arrested on Oct. 26. Wilkins and the newspaper argued they were entitled to the information under Indiana law.
Britt, whose office is charged with preserving the access rights of information to the public, wrote that the information should have been made available “no later than 24 hours after the suspect’s arrest.”
ISP argued the denial was “under the direction” of the county prosecutor and judge, who’d sealed court records related to the case. But Britt said the daily arrest log is not a judicial record and would not be governed by a court order. Since arrest logs are kept on a daily basis, providing the information would require little time or effort on the part of ISP.
On Oct. 31—two days after Wilkins’ request was denied—authorities held their news conference announcing they’d arrested Allen in connection with the infamous murder case.
The news came more than five years after Abby Williams and Libby German disappeared on the Monon High Bridge. Their bodies were found on Feb. 14, 2017, following a large search; the story gained national attention.
Allen is charged with two counts of murder after investigators said they linked an unspent round found next to the girls’ bodies to a gun he owned.
Britt took issue with how authorities handled the case, implying that the government had been its own worst enemy. From Britt’s conclusion:
This office remains convinced that much of the consternation regarding public access in this case is much of the government’s own doing. Simply put, the law enforcement agencies at play could have anticipated an onslaught of requests for the arrest information and prepared accordingly instead of keeping the public in the dark for several days until they arranged a more convenient method of disseminating information.Public Access Counselor Luke Britt
Court records related to the case were also sealed, including the probable cause affidavit. Media organizations contested the order shielding those documents from the public, although a special judge granted the release of a redacted version of the affidavit in late November 2022.
Earlier this week, the court released Carroll County Prosecutor Nick McLeland’s October 2022 motion asking a judge to seal the records. According to the motion, McLeland argued that releasing the information would “create serious and imminent danger to the public interest” and possibly damage an “ongoing murder investigation.”
Allen is next due in court on June 15 for a bail hearing.