True crime is at it’s best when it illuminates a truth, and given the nature of true crime those truths are often unpalatable.
Down the Hill covers the murder in 2017 of friends Abby and Libby who were 13 and 14 years-old respectively. They went for a walk one day in February, near their home town of Delphi, Indiana, and were later found murdered. As any case which involves the taking of young lives the senslessness and tragedy is palpable throughout the podcast which slowly takes the listener through the search, the police work, and theories about the crime.
What has made this case, and the podcast, Down The Hill, so interesting to the true crime community is that Libby had the presence of mind to record the killer on her phone, so the police have both video and audio, of the suspect as well as what we’re told was a lot of physical evidence. However, so far, no one has been caught. It is here that we come to the first unpalatable truth that this podcast uncovers. That the blanket of technology, while helping us to feel more safe and less anxious, is not necessarily able to save us when the worst happens.
The second unpalatable truth, or possibly a sub-truth of the first, is that technology does not always make crime easier to solve. Real crime on the ground is not like CSI, and the blurry video and distorted sound make it hard to really pin down anything about the suspect which would differentiate him from any other tall, white, stocky, male. The recording does however bring a hope that if they can pin someone to the murders that the video will be instrumental in securing a conviction.
The third unpalatable truth that the podcast brings up is that the enthusiasim of the true crime community itself has left something to be desired. There have been malicious tips, sending relatives side-by-sides (comparison photos beside the artist impression) of random people, wasting police time, to trashing the families and the whole town of Delphi. There is a palpable anger from the people who knew Abby and Libby towards what they call “Facebook detectives”.
That is the last unpalatable truth, and probably one the true crime community needs most to think on… just because you feel like you are helping, does not mean you actually are helping. The road to hell is paved with good intention, and ego’s that need the propping up of “doing good.” Which is why I wonder if this element around true crime is in fact inevitable, because human beings have always been driven by ego’s even when, and probably especially when, they think they are being driven by some higher power, greater good, the pursuit of something righteous, or justice. Which as I get older, I start to believe more and more is an ideal which is only partially obtainable. We do however have control over what we do, and it is incumbant of all in the true crime community to stop contacting the relatives of victims with theories or possible leads. It is the job of the police to investigate and any tips should be going straight to them.
Even though I feel more as time goes on that justice is not something we can all naturally expect when wrong has done done, having listened to all of Down the Hill twice now, I sincerely hope some part of justice will be obtainable for Delphi.