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'One day, you hope to do something bigger,' Anna Williams on honoring Abby by helping others

Posted at 1:28 PM, Feb 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-14 10:56:53-05

DELPHI — Anna Williams sits on her living room couch, quietly looking at the photos hanging on the wall. The smiling face looking back is that of her daughter, Abigail. The images, a reminder of happier times, hang just outside her daughter's bedroom — which remains much the way it was when she left on February 13, 2017.

It’s now been three years since her daughter was murdered but Anna says she continues to live her life — and Abby’s — by helping others.

READ | Everything we know about the murders of Libby & Abby

That comes in many forms; from hosting charity events to just being there for those who have suffered tragedies she is all too familiar with. Anna has been finding ways to live a life she knows Abby would be proud of while keeping her memory alive and being something positive in a world that can seem so dark.

One of the ways she accomplishes this, is simply by showing support.

Anna says she’s attended dozens of events, bike rides and memorials for families who share an unfortunate bond: having lost someone they love.

“The first ride that I remember doing is for Chaz and Dylans’ family in Monticello,” Anna said. “I was introduced to them and there was just a whirlwind of things. We had been at their vigil as well, because it just touched us. It was so close, and the boys were just a little bit older than the girls. We still maintain contact with them.”

Chaz Rodziewicz, 17, and Dylan Mullis, 16, were killed in an accident back in April 2017 — barely two months after Libby and Abby’s murders. Although the cause of their death was vastly different, the tragedy still hits the same.

“It’s really hard right off the bat to meet other folks who are going through a similar situation,” Anna said. “You really don’t want to deal with somebody else’s things. Everyone is different. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s just overwhelming. You’re trying to deal with your own self. But as time goes things just pull on your heart. Different times. Different places. Different people.”

Anna says she feels that same pull on her heart anytime she hears of tragedies happening across the country. It’s one of the reasons that someday, she wants to be the one to help them.

“You just want to drop everything and go because you know there are people there who are going through what you’ve gone through,” Anna said.

“I think sometimes the hard part about that, too, is that it just keeps happening. There’s always something that’s happening, and you feel helpless in your own situation sometimes. I just try to do something with that and be available and help where I can.”

Similar Tragedy

Another story that has had an impact on Anna’s mind and heart was one that happened several years before Abby and Libby’s murders. Anna says she finally made the trip to Iowa over the summer of 2019 to visit the families of Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook, two young cousins whose murders are eerily similar to the ones in Delphi.

“Their girls were younger than ours, but their story is very close to our hearts,” Anna said. “There were similarities. It was brought up early on and I decided I had the time off to do it and I made the trip to Iowa and got to meet their families and be with them on their events. It was good to be with other folks who know what we’re going through. And it’s been longer for them than it has for us… and their case is also unsolved.”

Anna says their story really hit her when she saw the crime scene photos. Lyric and Elizabeth were murdered and their bodies were left in a wooded area, off a trail and near a creek.

“I thought I was looking at our girls,” Anna said.

Although the Iowa girls were a few years younger than Abby and Libby, their 2012 murders impacted their small community in a very similar way.

“Talking about it. Talking about our families, their families. What we’ve gone through what they’ve gone through. What they’ve done. Their community is just amazing,” Anna said. “It’s still a tremendous outpouring of people who want justice just like our community.

“It helps to know that things continue, and community support is still there. It’s hope, for us,” she said.

Her trip to Iowa not only helped with her healing process, but it created new connections with people who understand what she’s going through — something that means a lot to a grieving mother.

“We’re a new family now. It’s a different family,” Anna said. “Other folks who have gone through that, they’re part of our family too. We know how they’re feeling, they know how we’re feeling, and you don’t have to talk about it… They know. We know.”

Powerful Connections

Both Abby and Libby's family have also been able to connect with families across the country through other types of events and operations — like CrimeCon — where they were able to meet with some of the families of the victims of the Golden State Killer.

“Their main reiteration was ‘It took us 40 years, it won’t take you that long,’” Anna said. “It is coming. This is a drop in the bucket.”

“We’re young in this. Yes, it’s been three years, but it’s only been three years, and other families have waited a lot longer,” she said.

READ | Delphi victim’s sister begins social campaign with ‘sister survivor’ from Golden State Murders

Spreading Abby's Love

Another way Anna has found to help is through fundraisers, food drives and other events in the girls’ names. One big event for her is “Abby’s Angels,” where community members come together and donate school supplies and other items to pack shoeboxes for kids in need across the country through Operation Christmas Child.

Abby's Angel Boxes

“Abby’s Angels” have packed and shipped over 300 boxes each of the past three years, according to Anna.

“One of the things that we wanted to do - and she wanted to do - was do something for other people,” she said. “It gives people the opportunity to do something in their honor.”

READ | Take 1 minute to share Libby & Abby's story

Outside of “Abby’s Angels” the families have both been a part of food collections – like the one being held on February 13 at the Delphi church – and other charity events to help their communities in the girls’ name.

Anna says you don’t have to drive to Delphi to remember the girls with your giving, she asks that you just take the time to do something meaningful. “You can do it locally and share that spirit there.”

Volunteers pack Abby's Angel Boxes

Packing Abby's Angel boxes to honor her memory

A Bigger Plan

"One day you hope to do something bigger." It's something Anna says weighs on her mind

“It’s always hard to think about doing the next thing when we’re sitting where we’re at, but at the same time thinking about the next thing and what we can do is important," she said.

“There will be a day when this isn’t where we’re sitting and we’re not waiting for the finality of our girls’ case… and once that has closed, that chapter, and we move on…getting involved with other families who have gone through something similar on a bigger level," she said.

“We don’t know why this happened to us, a lot of folks don’t know why these things happen to their family. There’s no reason sometimes, it just is what it is. But being available and participating and helping spread the word about other children and other families, and networking in support of their cause is what is going to help.”

“We’ll continue to wait, but there’s that support there of folks that are like ‘I know it seems horrendous now and it is, but justice will be served,’ and working toward helping other people will also be part of that for me.”

Keeping the Memory Alive

Anna says she looks at the different momentos she has collected over the past three years – a signed softball bat, a large print of Abby’s photos that hangs above her living room couch – and it reminds her what she’s been through and that she isn’t alone.

“It’s kinda a timeline through the years of the events that we’ve been through and it’s a constant reminder of how kind people have been in the last three years.”

Sitting among those ‘things’ that adorn her living space is a lamp with a shade covered in Abby’s photos. Anna says that lampshade was one of the last Christmas gifts she received from her daughter. The images are starting to fade after three years, but its presence reminds her of why she keeps fighting.