Darren Deon Vann, the man accused in a string of killings in Indiana appeared in court Wednesday but refused to answer a judge’s questions, forcing the hearing to be rescheduled for next week. The magistrate court hearing was held at the county jail in Crown Point.
The man has been charged in the death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, and authorities say he has confessed to killing six other women and led police to their bodies. Investigators are looking into whether there are any other victims, and they’re canvassing abandoned properties in Gary, Indiana.
Former FBI agent Joseph Ways Sr., now executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, a non-governmental watchdog group, told The Associated Press that such investigations can stretch into years. Investigators will trace Vann’s footsteps, down to examining gas receipts and tollbooth records, to learn where he traveled.
The earlier killings were detailed four years ago as part of a Scripps investigation into patterns of unsolved murders that suggested possible serial killings. Scripps provided the list to Gary police and the Lake County Coroner’s Office at the time. Afterward, Gary police declined interviews and refused to return phone calls.
When the judge asked Darren Vann, 43, if he swore to tell the truth at his initial court appearance, he didn’t respond or flinch and stood unmoving and stone-faced. Lake Superior Court judge Kathleen Sullivan warned Vann, who stood with his wrists and legs shackled and flanked by two jail guards, he could be held in contempt and he still declined to speak.
“Mr. Vann, are you choosing not to take part in this hearing?” Sullivan asked Vann during the hearing in a courtroom at the Lake County Jail in Crown Point.
Sullivan then addressed Vann’s public defender, urging him to make his client speak.
“Tell your client that he stays in jail the rest of his life until this hearing takes place,” she said.
Vann was charged Monday in the strangulation death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, whose body was found Friday in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana, 20 miles southeast of Chicago. He also was charged with murder in commission of a robbery and robbery causing great bodily injury.