Darren Deon Vann has been identified as the suspected killer of at least seven women found dead in northwest Indiana this weekend. Vann, a 43-year-old convicted sex offender, was charged on Monday with the murder by strangulation of 19-year-old Afrika Hardy at a Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana, and is likely to soon face more charges as the investigation proceeds, coming from the fact that the suspect’s possible involvement in other murders may stretch back decades, police said Monday.
Hardy planned on going to school and was excited about starting a new life. Her devastated mother is now planning to celebrate her daughter’s life with a party back in Colorado so that she came remember how Hardy lived, not her tragic death.
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said at a news conference that Vann confessed to Hardy’s slaying and gave police information that led to the other bodies in Gary, including three on the same block.
“There are six victims in the city of Gary and by any estimation that certainly amounts to a person being a serial killer once evidence is confirmed this one individual is responsible,” Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said in an interview on CNN. “There are multiple deaths and they are likely at the hand of this individual.”
Vann was a convicted sex offender in Texas, where he pleaded guilty in 2009 to raping a woman and was released from prison in July 2013.
Indiana authorities said Hardy, the woman Vann is accused of strangling, was involved in prostitution and had arranged to meet him at the Motel 6 through a Chicago-area website. Police were called by someone who attempted to reach Hardy and “was provided suspicious text responses that she believed to be from the suspect while he was still inside the motel room.”
Police said they took Vann into custody Saturday afternoon after obtaining a search warrant for a home and vehicle in Gary.
Vann, who was not identified until Monday’s news conference, later confessed, police said, saying he “messed up” by killing a woman in Hammond. Vann told police where to find three other dead women, all in Gary, Doughty said.
Acting on his information, police discovered the body of Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, late Saturday in an abandoned home in Gary. Her family had reported her missing on Oct. 8. It was not clear how long ago the other victims had been killed.
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