Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge discusses retiring after 30 year career

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — At the beginning of the last week of his 30-year FBI career, Jay Abbott, special agent in charge of the Indianapolis Division, reflected on his successes and regrets.

At the top of his list: the unsolved murders of Delphi teens Abby Williams and Libby German.

“That one is just, we’ve all had a personal connection to that and though it’s not the FBI’s case, Carroll county and Delphi Police Department and Indiana state police, are the lead, but they asked the FBI for our help and I most certainly was very pleased to provide whatever help we could and we provided a huge amount of help, but the fact that we’ve not been able to solve that case, has been a disappointment and I’ve already challenged my successor, Grant that I want him to solve it on his watch,” said Abbott, “I am confident, very confident that it will be solved. We have viable leads, we’ve just not been able to solve it, yet. But it’s so frustrating with the amount of information and leads that we have haven’t turned that corner yet, so I’m hopeful that will happen.

Abbott will turn the reigns of the FBI’s Indianapolis division to Grant Mendenhall, wrapping up a career that started June 1, 1987.

“I was in law school at the time and the FBI came. It never entered my notion to join the FBI until they came recruiting, but it was like a bell that went off,” Abbott said.

His first assignment was in Washington, D.C., where he eventually worked on the FBI’s first Cold Case Homicide Task Force, working with officers from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

“One case I’ll remember for the rest of my life and I was the case agent is we had an individual who was stalking and killing police officers,” said Abbott.

That individual would go onto kill a special agent, Abbott’s friend and mentor six months after two other special agents and friends were killed when the gunman shot them at police headquarters.

“Up until that point, I had been in the FBI for about 5 or 6 years, it was the life of adventure, intrigue, romance and excitement, but when those things happened it became very real,” said Abbott,”Those incidents motivated me to leadership I didn’t want to be outside of the decision stream where I potentially help make a difference in protecting those agents that I’ve come to care so much about.”

That led him to his first supervisory post at FBI Headquarters working on international terror programs, a position that would lead him to his next assignment: working out of the U.S. Embassy in Paris on international terrorism matters.

“I witness 9-11 from abroad, some of the cases I had the opportunity to work on there were just amazing,” said Abbott, “Zacarias Moussaoui, he was the fabled 20th hijacker from 9/11, the shoe bomber case, Richard Colbin Reed,” said Abbott.

From there he supervised a public corruption squad in El Paso, Texas and was then promoted to assistant special agent in charge over the division’s Criminal and Administrative Programs. He was then appointed chief of the Global Operations Sections in the Criminal Justice Information Services Division and then served as the acting special agent in charge of the Seattle Division.

He then landed in Indianapolis, as special agent in charge, on July 8, 2014. Covering many cases in that time, some that stand out more than others, including the Brian Kil case.

“I will never forget sitting at the Plainfield High School Auditorium with what must have been 600, 700, 800 parents and this was two years ago, right before Christmasbreak when they were closing down the school because of the threat, etc. and what were we doing to ensure their safety?” said Abbott.

“We finally brought that person to justice identified who he was and where he was and where he was — he was in, brought him back here and he’ll face trial here, but that one I am particularly proud of because it took the FBI’s involvement.”

In addition to regrets about the Delphi case remaining unsolved, Abbott wonders what more could have been done to impact the rising homicide rate in Indianapolis.

“The homicide rate is still going up and I will say that is one of those things that I regret. I really thought that the collaboration that we have with IMPD and Indiana State Police and the things that we’re doing, we’re working at a level now where the collaboration is almost unprecedented and we’re making extremely impact cases, but why is that not affecting the rising homicide rate? So I don’t know if it’s just that our efforts just haven’t gotten enough traction where they haven’t gotten enough effect and it’s just gonna come, or is there something more that we’re not seeing that we need to identify so that we’re focusing our efforts better in the right area. My personal opinion is that it’s a lot of factors coming into play, the opiate epidemic, the entire nation, Indianapolis isn’t excluded, that could be a factor, social aspect, and services could be a factor, it’s really hard to say, but I hope that will continue to get better, but I’m very proud of the collaboration and the many cases that we’ve made in concert with them,” said Abbott.

One piece of a career that has had ups and downs, but one where he completed a goal he had shortly after he started 30 years ago.

“I think that I am most proud of during my leadership whether it was in Washington D.C. or in Paris, France or in El Paso, Texas or West Virginia and significantly here in Indiana, I’ve always managed to ensure the safety of the special agents that are out there doing the work of protecting the work of the American people.”