Darren Deon Vann is a suspected American
serial killer. He was arrested in October 2014, at the age of 43, for
the strangulation death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy at a Motel 6 in
Hammond, Indiana and has confessed to the murders of six other women
victims in Indiana. He led police to six of the women's bodies, all of
which were found in abandoned structures in Gary, Indiana.
Vann was born in Indiana. He was married for 16
years to a woman who was about 30 years older than him. He was
reportedly arrested in Gary, Indiana for threatening the life of his
girlfriend. He was charged with a class D felony and spent 90 days in
jail. Vann was previously convicted in Travis County, Texas, of sexual
assault and served five years in a state penitentiary, being released
on July 5, 2013.
His wife filed for a divorce in August 2009 and
their marriage was dissolved in April 2010. He also received an "other
than honorable" discharge from the United States Marine Corps in 1993
after joining in 1991.
Arrest and investigation
When 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy was found strangled
in a Motel 6, authorities used Hardy’s phone records and located Vann.
Upon apprehension, Vann was found to have possession of several key
pieces of potential evidence which included Hardy’s phone.
During police interrogation he allegedly confessed
to his involvement in Hardy’s killing and told police he was involved
in other killings. He is currently being held in Hammond, Indiana. His
first court hearing was scheduled October 22, however he was held in
contempt of court. His next hearing was held on October 28 at Lake
County Jail in Crown Point where he plead to two charges of “not
guilty” filed against him so far.
Vann is suspected of murdering at least seven
people. Three victims remain unidentified.
Afrikka Hardy, 19, had recently moved to Chicago
after graduating from high school. She met Vann at a Motel 6 in
Hammond, Indiana after he hired her through an escort agency. She was
found dead at the Motel 6.
Teira Batey, 28, from Gary, Indiana, left to meet a
friend but never came back. Her family waited to hear from her for a
few days but reported her missing in late January 2014.
Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, Indiana, was last
seen alive on October 8, 2014 and reported missing two days later. Her
car was found parked in the driveway of an abandoned house in Gary,
Indiana. After Vann was arrested, he pointed the police in the
direction of an abandoned house in Gary where her body and two
unidentified victims were found. He was charged on October 22, 2014.
Kristine Williams, 36, was a resident of Gary,
Indiana and a mother of four. She was employed at the time of her
death. Her mother-in-law stated that she had not heard from Williams
since February 2014.
Jane Doe #3
One, who authorities refer to as "Jane Doe #3", was
5-feet tall and had shoulder length blonde hair with red tints. Lake
County Coroner Merrilee Frey described her outfit as size 3/4
twenty-one black blue jeans by RUE21, paired with white, size six Nike
Jane Doe #5
Another victim, known as "Jane Doe #5", was a
five-foot, three inch tall woman of African American descent, who wore
a silver-colored chain link bracelet with the engraving "Best Aunt",
and two silver rings: one with scalloped engravings, and the other in
the shape of a heart.
Jane Doe #6
The third unidentified victim is an
African-American woman referred to as "Jane Doe #6".
Vann pleads not guilty in two murder cases
By Elvia Malagon - Nwitimes.com
October 29, 2014
CROWN POINT - A shackled Darren Vann made his
initial court appearance Wednesday in Lake County Criminal Court.
Vann, 43, of Gary, is charged in the strangling
deaths of Afrika Hardy, 19, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville. He
allegedly confessed to killing at least five other women in Northwest
Vann was sworn in Wednesday and politely answered
questions by Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan, which was in contrast to
his behavior last week. During his first initial hearing last week,
Vann refused to speak or participate in the hearing.
Sullivan entered a preliminary not guilty plea on
his behalf. She read the charges he faces and asked if he understood
"Yes, ma'am," Vann said.
Lake County officers and correctional officers
filled the courtroom. The gallery consisted mostly of journalists and
Vann, wearing a Lake County Jail uniform, appeared
tired and frequently closed his eyes during the hearing.
He faces two counts of murder, two counts of murder
in the perpetration of a robbery and two counts of robbery resulting
in serious bodily injury.
Lake County Prosecuting Attorney Bernard Carter,
who represented the state during Wednesday's hearing, said previously
his office was in the initial stages of determining if the death
penalty will be sought in the case.
The Lake County prosecutor's office already has a
pending capital case against Carl L. Blount -- accused of killing Gary
Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield.
Vann indicated during the hearing Wednesday he will
not hire a private attorney and will retain court-appointed public
defender Matthew Fech.
Sullivan granted a new protective order in the
state's case against Vann in the homicide of Anith Jones. The same
order was granted last week in the state's case against Vann in
The order means officials involved in the
investigations cannot speak to the public or media about the case
while it's pending.
The state is prohibited from speaking to Vann
unless he initiates the conversations, Sullivan said. Fech said in
court he must be present during any conversations the state has with
Vann's next court hearing is set for Jan. 9.
Hammond police arrested Vann last week after
discovering Afrika Hardy's body Oct. 17 at a Hammond Motel 6.
According to court records, the two met through an online escort
Officials said Vann spoke in detail about Hardy's
homicide, and then led detectives to the bodies of six women he
allegedly left in abandoned buildings in Gary.
Jones was found Oct. 18 in an abandoned building in
the 400 block of East 43rd Street in Gary.
According to court records, Vann told detectives a
mutual friend offered him $500 in cash and drugs to make Jones
disappear because of an upcoming legal matter.
Vann spoke to Jones several times by phone before
meeting her in an empty Merrillville house sometime in October. Vann
said he had sex with Jones and then strangled her to death, according
to an affidavit.
A friend of Jones told police Jones used online
escort services like Hardy.
Vann said he later moved her body to a vacant home
in Gary, according to the affidavit.
Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary, and Kristine Williams,
36, of Gary, were among the women found in abandoned homes last week.
The Lake County coroner's office has ruled their deaths homicides.
Vann has not been charged in the homicides of Batey
Officials are still working to identify three other
women Vann has allegedly confessed to killing.
Two women were found in a second house at the same
property where Jones was found. Officials said the remains of the
women were partially skeletonized and have not been able to identify
Another woman was found Oct. 19 in an abandoned
home in the 2200 block of Massachusetts Street in Gary. She has not
Who is Indiana serial killer suspect Darren Deon Vann?
By Greg Botelho - CNN
October 23, 2014
Darren Deon Vann was no stranger to police.
Even before police caught up with him this weekend,
Vann's record was well-established. He had gone to jail at least twice
before on felony convictions. But -- if authorities are to be believed
-- his time behind bars didn't prove much of a deterrent.
Authorities went after the 43-year-old Vann this
weekend in connection with the death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy at a
Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana. Not only did he confess to that killing,
but police said Vann also admitted to six other women's deaths. Police
said he led them to the women's bodies in abandoned structures in
"It disgusts me, because it's seven bodies," said
Ronnie Williams, a resident of the Gary neighborhood where most of the
victims were found.
Vann had an initial court appearance related to
Hardy's killing on Wednesday morning, but was held in contempt of
court when he refused to answer the judge's questions.
Vann was represented by a state-appointed public
defender, Matthew Fech.
There's much more that's not known publicly about
Vann, in fact, than is known. Like, what is his background? What did
he do for a living? Why -- if it is proven he killed these seven women
-- would he do such a thing?
What is known that Vann was born in Indiana but
didn't stay there his whole life. Records, for instance, show he was
arrested on unspecified charges while living in Cherry Point, North
Carolina, in 1993.
It was in the 1990s that Edward Matlock first got
to know Vann. Vann had married Matlock's mother, who was about 30
years older than Vann.
Matlock said he wasn't comfortable or happy with
his mother's marriage, which lasted 16 years. Part of it had to do
with the age difference between the couple. Then there were Matlock's
observations that Vann talked to himself or sometimes seemed lost in
thought, in addition to stories he heard about Vann spending time in a
rough part of Austin, Texas, where the pair had moved.
"The guy is a nutcase. He is. And I'd watch him,"
Matlock told CNN's Ashleigh Banfield. "I'd never allow him near my
kids or in my home, because he just freaked me out."
Matlock said things "went downhill" for Vann after
he got fired from a temp agency, adding he had trouble finding good
work after that. Eventually, Vann and Matlock's mother moved from
Austin to Gary, Indiana, where Matlock said he found them "living in
Gary was where Vann had his first major brush with
the law: in April 2004, with a woman (who wasn't Matlock's mother) who
police described as Vann's girlfriend.
According to a police affidavit tied to that
incident, Vann threatened to burn down or blow up the home of a man
who he believed was sheltering his girlfriend. Then, in front of
police, he "grabbed (his girlfriend) and told the police to back up or
he would burn himself and (the girlfriend)," the affidavit stated.
With his left arm around the woman's neck and his
right hand holding a gasoline can and lighter, Vann refused her
requests for freedom -- right up until police grabbed and arrested
Vann was charged with a class D felony, and spent
90 days behind bars after his conviction.
At some point after his release, Vann went back to
Austin. That's where, in December 2007, he was arrested again, this
time for aggravated sexual assault.
According to the affidavit out of Travis County, a
25-year-old woman responding to "a service call from her employer" met
Vann and the two went to an apartment.
After they got inside, "Vann asked her if she was a
police officer and she told him that she was not," the affidavit said.
"Vann then attacked her."
The court document details how Vann choked,
repeatedly struck and raped the woman.
A grand jury indicted him in July 2008. He pleaded
guilty and was convicted in September 2009 and sentenced to five years
in prison. That led to -- accounting for time served -- his release on
July 5, 2013, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice
spokesman Jason Clark.
Again, Vann didn't stay put for long after getting
out of jail.
He registered as a sex offender in prison, then
told officials there that he would move back to Gary, Indiana. Texas
authorities alerted their colleagues in Lake County, Indiana, that
Vann was to be considered a "low risk" sex offender, which is based on
experts' assessment of the likelihood that a person will commit
another sexual offense.
In the 15 months since Vann left Texas, police
said, Vann killed seven women, with six of their bodies found in some
of the estimated 10,000 abandoned structures in Gary.
There may have been more victims, police said.
After Hardy was found strangled in a Motel 6
bathtub, authorities used cellular phone records to track down Vann on
Saturday, along with the blue Jeep he'd been driving. Police said Vann
also had Hardy's pink phone and other potentially key pieces of
Police said Vann confessed, telling them he "messed
up" and expressing surprise he had been found so quickly, Hammond
Police Chief John Doughty said. A short time later, he led authorities
to the six other victims.
Authorities have not detailed what relationship, if
any, Vann had with the victims. (In fact, police have only identified
four of those killed so far.)
As for why, Doughty said, "I don't have a specific
reason he does this."
Vann's next court appearance is scheduled for
October 29 at the Lake County jail in Crown Point.
Possible serial killer's victims: 'They're
By Catherine E. Shoichet - CNN
October 23, 2014
Who are the seven women who police say one Indiana
man has confessed to killing?
"They're not forgotten, because they're not
nobodies. They're somebody," said Lori Townsend, whose 19-year-old
daughter Afrikka Hardy was found strangled at a Motel 6 in Hammond,
Indiana, over the weekend.
"They're somebody's daughter," she told CNN
affiliate WLS, "somebody's mother, somebody's sister."
Here's what we know so far about the suspected
serial killer's victims:
"She could walk into a room and just light it up
with her smile and her laugh and just her presence," Townsend told
CNN's Don Lemon.
"Afrikka never met a stranger. She loved everybody.
And that was kind of part of her problem. She was a little naive on
Hardy, 19, had recently moved back to Chicago after
graduating from high school and living for five years with her mother
in Aurora, Colorado.
Authorities say suspect Darren Deon Vann hired a
prostitute through the backpage.com site serving Chicago and arranged
a meeting with Hardy at the Motel 6.
That was a surprise to her mother.
"I had no idea. That's not the way I raised Afrikka.
She wasn't raised up like that," Townsend said.
"Her three months out there, she never said that
anything was wrong. She never gave me any inclination she was doing
this or thinking about doing this."
But even if true, that information is irrelevant,
the mother said.
"What matters is that my baby be remembered for who
she really is," Townsend wrote on Facebook Monday. "Remember her
smile, laugh, tender heart and the fact that she is no longer with
In Facebook posts, Townsend described her daughter
as a princess and posted a YouTube video of her belting out a ballad.
Hardy's cousins told The Chicago Tribune that she
enjoyed singing, loved kids and eventually wanted to own a day care.
"She had plans on going back to school, and we
talked about it numerous times," one cousin told the newspaper. "But I
guess she started hanging with different people and it took her
towards another way."
The last time Gloria Cullom saw her daughter, they
were grocery shopping together in Gary.
"She said, 'I love you. I'll be back, Mama.' That's
what she said to me, and she left, and she went with her friend,"
Cullom told CNN affiliate KARE. "But she didn't come back that night."
When she heard from her the next day, Batey was
crying, sounded scared and wanted someone to pick her up, Cullom said.
She was never heard from again.
Batey's family reported her missing in late
January, boyfriend Marvin Clinton told CNN's Poppy Harlow.
At first, they held off because Batey had been
known to leave her home in Gary for days or even a week at a time,
Clinton said. But as the days passed, he said, they became
increasingly concerned and contacted police.
"We know her daily routine. She would go out, you
know, and hang out, go visit friends and things like that," he said.
"But she would always stay in touch with the family."
Batey, 28, didn't work, Clinton said.
"It was more being home, being a mom, raising her
son, doing things as a family," he said.
Cullom said her daughter was mentally ill and often
willing to trust people.
"Like I told (the police) there, she might be
grown, but she had a mind like a 12-year-old. She's very vulnerable,
but she's a sweet person," Cullom told KARE. "She's very trusting. She
never thought that somebody would hurt her if she never gave them no
reason to hurt her."
Authorities at one point suggested that maybe Batey
had decided to leave and start a new life, but Clinton said he didn't
"Teaira would not leave her son like that," he
said. "She was a loving, kind person ... a bighearted person. Teaira
was the kind of person that ... would give you her coat to wear if you
didn't have one."
Clinton told CNN affiliate WLS that he's been
struggling to tell their 2-year-old son what happened.
"I don't know how to explain it to him right now.
... He's been asking for Mommy a lot, and the only thing I can tell
him is, 'Mommy's not here right now,'" Clinton said.
The 35-year-old was last seen on October 8, the
Chicago Sun-Times reported. She was reported missing two days later.
Her sister told the newspaper that Jones, who lived
in Merrillville, Indiana, ran a booth at a flea market.
"She was a kind, loving woman," Yolanda Nowell, a
Chicago police officer, told the Sun-Times. "She was my favorite
sister. She was everybody's favorite aunt."
Her 2001 Chevrolet Prism was found parked in the
driveway of a vacant house in Gary earlier this month. Police with
cadaver dogs had searched other vacant lots and abandoned homes to
look for her, the newspaper said. They didn't find her, until Vann
pointed them to an abandoned house in Gary.
The bodies of two other women were found at the
same address. They have not yet been identified.
Vann had "some sort of connection" with Jones, Gary
Police Chief Larry McKinley said, adding that authorities don't know
yet what the connection is.
Williams, 36, was a resident of Gary and a mother
of four, according to her mother-in-law, Deborah Berry.
Berry told CNN she had not heard from Williams
since February but did not file a police report because Williams would
"I've been kind of wondering what happened to
Kristine. She kind of disappeared," said Berry. "I haven't talked to
her since February. She would call me every couple of months. I was
like her mother. Her real family wouldn't have much to do with her."
Williams did not have a job, and according to
Berry, she had two children from her marriage with Berry's son Siad,
and two more children from different fathers.
All four were put up for adoption, said Berry.
Jane Doe #3
One victim, described by authorities as Jane Doe
#3, was a 5-foot-tall woman with shoulder length blond hair tinted
red. She wore a pair of size-3/4 twentyone black by RUE21 blue jeans
and white Nike gym shoes size 6, said Lake County Coroner Merrilee
"We may have a possible lead. We will be conducting
DNA analysis with her possible family through the Indiana State
Police. As well as all the victims that we have identified, to be able
to make a positive identification," said Frey.
Jane Doe #5
Frey said a victim known as Jane Doe #5 wore a
silver-colored chain-linked bracelet that said "Best Aunt" when
investigators found her. Fray asked for help identifying the 5-foot
3-inch African-American woman, who she said was also wearing a
silver-colored ring with scalloped engravings and another
silver-colored ring with a heart shape.
Jane Doe #6
Frey said a victim known as Jane Doe #6 was an
Darren Vann: Indiana man arrested for murdering
teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear
Darren Vann was arrested for the murder of a sex
worker in an Indiana motel on Friday before leading officers to six
other bodies. They now suspect there are more victims, dating back 20
By David Usborne - Independent.co.uk
Tuesday 21 October 2014
A man charged with the killing of a prostitute in
Gary, Indiana, has led police to the decomposing bodies of six other
women in assorted abandoned homes in the city spurring speculation
that he may be America’s latest serial killer with perhaps yet more
murders to his name stretching back over decades.
So far Darren Deon Vann has been charged only with
the murder of 19-year-old Afrika Hardy, a sex worker whose body was
found at the weekend in a motel room in Hammond, just west of Gary and
south of Chicago in neighbouring Illinois. He led police to the bodies
of the six other women after being taken into custody.
“It could go back as far as 20 years based on some
statements we have and that’s yet to be corroborated,” noted Hammond
Police Chief John Doughty. “It is possible other victims could
surface.” Of the other victims, three have been identified as Anith
Jones, 35, Teiarra Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36, all from the
Investigators are combing through missing persons
cases locally and in Texas in search of anything that could tie them
to Mr Vann. He served five years in prison in Texas after being
convicted of sexually assaulting and trying to strangle an Austin
woman. He returned to Gary, where he had previously lived, after being
released one year ago.
The capture of Mr Vann, 43, has gripped residents
of Gary, a once-vibrant city on the southern end of Lake Michigan that
over decades has become synonymous with rust-belt blight and violent
crime. Residents expressed horror that its huge collection of
abandoned structures had become a dumping ground for a suspected
“It makes me very uncomfortable,” said Latonya
Ramson, 36, whose own home is close to the house where Mr Vann had
been living with a brother. “There’s abandoned houses everywhere you
look. If we didn’t have all these abandoned houses, he wouldn’t have
been able to leave people in them – that’s part of the problem.
Also going through people’s minds are memories of
one of the region’s most infamous serial killers, John Wayne Gacy, a
child entertainer from Chicago who was executed in 1994 after being
arrested in 1978 and implicated in the killing of 33 men and boys. He
had begun his killing spree after serving time for sexual crimes
before being freed.
The first spark on the fuse that led police to Mr
Vann came on Friday when Ms Hardy, a sex worker for an escort service
called “Big Boy Appetite”, texted a co-worker to say she was meeting a
“john” in the Hammond motel. When she failed to send a follow-up text,
the co-worker tried to contact her. Suspicious that a return text had
not in fact been written by Ms Hardy she went to the motel where she
found Ms Hardy’s body in the bathroom.
Police said they were able to connect the murder to
Mr Vann in part by tracing communications with the escort agency to
his phone. He and his car were also captured by a motel surveillance
Officials said that upon his arrest he confessed to
killing Ms Hardy and then quickly told them of the six other bodies
and where they were. Mr Doughty indicated that Mr Vann was
co-operating with police in hopes of making a deal with prosecutors.
“The initial murder investigation led to the
confession of six other murders committed by Vann with those bodies
being recovered in the city of Gary in abandoned structures,” the city
of Gary said in a brief statement. Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley
agreed the news had alarmed residents.
“It’s put the community of Gary on heightened
alert,” he said. “Any time you have this type of crime that happens in
the city, in any city, there is some fear.” Ms Hardy had returned to
the area recently from the Denver area in Colorado where her mother,
Lori Townsend, continues to live.
“I can’t tell her I love her anymore. I can’t give
her hugs. I can’t give her kisses,” Ms Townsend told local television
station, adding she had expected her daughter home for Thanksgiving
In another interview she said: “She was my best
friend. When I didn’t have anything, she was all I had.”
A brother of Anith Jones, one of the other victims
found at the weekend, aired on Facebook his grief at having to
identify her body.
“The images I seen when I had to identify my
sister’s body, the last words we had together, the many pictures I see
with her smiling, and imagine what she went through during last
moments, the thoughts of whether she called me for help during her
final moments, and WHY this way!!??” he wrote. “Help me Lord!!!
A known survivor of the menace of Mr Vann is the
woman cited in the criminal complaint that led to his conviction and
incarceration in Texas.
She was said at the time to have been in his
apartment in Austin after receiving a “service call from her employer.
What happened there was described by a police report submitted to the
“Vann yelled at her that he could kill her,” it
said. “Vann then told her to perform oral sex on him. She told him no.
Vann hit her several times about the face.”
When the woman escaped she was treated for injuries
that were consistent with attempted strangulation.
Darren Deon Vann's ex-wife: 'I never knew him to
By Chuck Goudie - Abc7chicago.com
Monday, October 20, 2014
GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- Darren Deon Vann's ex-wife says
the alleged serial killer was never violent towards her. Vann, a
convicted sex offender, confessed to seven murders in Indiana, police
Vann, 43, was arrested in his Gary, Ind., home
after the body of Afrikka Hardy was discovered in a motel. He had
arranged a meeting with the 19-year-old through Backpage.com, a
website that is popular with prostitutes and their clients.
According to the police affidavit, Hardy and her
friend, Shameeka Cunningham, ran an escort service. Cunningham became
suspicious when Hardy's planned encounter with Vann, who called
himself "Big Boy Appetite," went long. When Hardy did not answer her
cell phone and Cunningham received "unusual" text messages that seemed
to be from the male client, she and a male friend went to the Motel 6
where they discovered Hardy's body.
Vann told police he wore white gloves as he
strangled Hardy with his hands and an extension cord, officials said.
He then put her body in the bathtub of the motel room, turned on the
shower, and left.
The discovery of Hardy's body led police in
northwest Indiana on a fast track to numerous other corpses. Hours
before his name was officially released, the ABC7 I-Team identified
Vann through various law enforcement officials, police records and
court files in Indiana and Texas.
As of Monday, the bodies of seven women, including
Hardy, had been discovered at locations in Hammond and Gary, according
to Lake County officials.
In Texas, Vann's ex-wife, who asked not to be
named, said she last spoke with him just before he went to prison for
a sexual assault that occurred in an Austin, Texas, apartment complex.
"This is all unbelievable to me," she said. "A
total shocker. I never knew him to be violent, never."
According to a court file from his Texas sex
conviction, Vann arranged to meet a 25-year-old woman and attacked her
in December of 2007. Police say he tripped her and then began to
strangle her. When he felt her body go limp, he raped her, according
to the report.
Vann was convicted of the sexual assault in
September of 2009 and sent to prison for five years.
His ex-wife says she knew a different kind of man,
one who was friendly, protective and not abusive. According to her,
they grew apart and divorced in 2011.
"He was so protective of those around him," she
said. "He was a real friendly person, that's why all this is a shock
to me. He had a job all the time; if he lost one, he would quickly get
"He didn't drink," she added. "He was a loner more
After release, Vann moved back to his home state of
Indiana in July of 2013, according to Lake County, Indiana, Sheriff
John Buncich. Since then, Vann has complied with sex offender
registration requirements, Sheriff Buncich told the I-Team.
"He last registered on September 11 - just last
month," Buncich said. "We had detectives sent out to his address to
make sure he lived there. He did."
Vann was found to be living in a home on 50th Court
in Gary. He was on the neighborhood watch, according to his neighbor.
"He was quiet," the neighbor said. "He was a pretty
The last entry for Vann on the Texas sex offender
registry lists his risk level as "low." But what police say has
transpired the past 72 hours is anything but minimal.
The I-Team asked Buncich whether there could me
more than seven victims.
"Who knows?" was his reply. "Our CSI forensic
investigators are on the case right now."
Vann has a history with Indiana police before
registering as a sex offender. In 2004, was charged with Residential
Entry and Intimidation in an incident in which he allegedly threatened
to set himself on fire, according to a Gary police affidavit.
Murder charges filed against suspect in deaths
of 7 women in Gary, Hammond
By Lolly Bowean, Peter Nickeas, Jeremy Gorner and
Annie Sweeney - ChicagoTribune.com
October 20, 2014
A convicted sex offender has been charged with the
murder of one of seven women found dead in Gary and Hammond over the
weekend as police continue their investigation, including the
suspect's possible involvement in other murders stretching back
decades, police said Monday.
Darren Deon Vann, 43, has been charged with murder
in the strangulation of Afrikka Hardy, 19, at a motel in the 3800
block of 179th Street in Hammond Friday night. Investigators
discovered the bodies of six other women in Gary after Vann was
Hardy moved to Chicago in the summer to live with
family here and was going to “spread her wings,” her mother, Lori
Townsend, said in a phone interview.
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.
“She was a 19-year-old beautiful, intelligent young
lady. She walked in a room and lit it up,” Lori Townsend said. “With
her laugh, her smile, her beauty. She could make you cry. She could
make you laugh. She made you think about things.”
Vann was charged late Monday with murder, murder in
perpetration of a robbery and robbery resulting in serious injury,
according to court documents.
According to an affidavit filed with the charges,
Hardy was found naked in the bathtub of the motel room with the shower
running. Red marks could be seen on her neck where she apparently had
been strangled with “something thin,” the affidavit said.
Police found a broken fingernail, a shirt button
and a torn condom wrapper on the floor of the room. and the beds had
been moved away from the headboards, indicating there had been a
struggle, according to the affidavit.
Hardy’s friend and partner in an escort business
told police Vann was using the online name “Big Boy Appetite” when he
responded to Hardy’s ad posted on the website "backpage," according to
the affidavit. The friend said Hardy texted her at 5:17 p.m. Friday
indicating the man was at the motel with her, according to the
The friend said after Hardy “went past the normal
time” for an appointment, she tried to call Hardy’s cell phone as many
as eight times but there was no answer. She texted Hardy’s phone and
received an response that did make sense, leading her to believe the
man had sent the message.
The friend then called another friend and the two
of them went to the motel room and discovered Hardy’s body, according
to the affidavit.
ideo surveillance from the motel shows Vann getting
out of a dark SUV and entering Hardy’s room around the time of the
slaying, the affidavit said. Cell phone records of the man who
answered Hardy’s ad with the name “Big Boy Appetite” led police to an
address in the 600 block of West 49th Avenue in Gary, where a search
warrant was conducted on Saturday.
After his arrest, Vann admitted to police he
responded to an ad posted under the name “Octavia,” drove to the motel
and killed Hardy as the two had sex.
Vann told police “at one point the sex was getting
rough and she started to fight with him,” according to the document.
“Vann said that he strangled the woman first with his hands and then
with a cord before placing her body in the bathtub of the motel room.”
When Vann was arrested, he was wearing a shirt that
was missing a button, the affidavit stated.
Hammond police Chief John Doughty said at a news
conference earlier Monday that authorities were still investigating
the deaths of six other women over the weekend, as well as claims by
Vann that he had killed other people “going back 20 years in the state
That information, Doughty said, has “yet to be
Asked about a possible motive for the slayings,
Doughty said that investigators had been talking at length with Vann
but “I don't have a specific reason he did this.”
When police took Vann into custody over the
weekend, he not only admitted his involvement in Hardy's death but
“expressed interest” in telling more.
“He was looking for some type of deal with the
prosecutors,” Doughty said.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott said police “caught
a break” and were able to surprise Vann with how fast they were able
to track him down.
“I think he was shocked,” McDermott said after the
news conference. “We caught him off guard, and he … started working
During questioning, Vann told detectives about the
locations of other victims, including three women found in the 400
block of East 43rd Avenue, a block littered with vacant buildings and
weed-choked lots. Two of those victims have been identified as Anith
Jones, 35, of Merrillville, and Christine Williams, 36, of Gary.
Another victim, Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary, was
found in the 1800 block of East 19th Avenue in Gary on Saturday,
police said, and an unidentified African American woman was found in
the 2200 block of Massachusetts Street in Gary.
Around 7:50 p.m. on Sunday, the body of a
still-unidentified woman was found in the 4300 block of Massachusetts
Street in Gary, according to the Lake County coroner’s office. That
woman’s cause of death was strangulation.
McDermott said that Vann has mentioned shootings in
Hammond that go back to the 1990s. Police have to follow those leads
to see if they can be verified, he said.
The Lake County coroner’s office continued trying
to positively identify five of the women Monday afternoon, an official
there said. Coroner’s office personnel were trying to use DNA to
identify two of the women.
Vann was convicted in Travis County, Texas, of
sexual assault and served five years in a penitentiary, according to
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
According to the state’s records, he was arrested
for a Dec. 15, 2007, attack on a “25-year-old Hispanic female,” whom
he assaulted and “struck several times and attempted to strangle,”
said spokesman Jason Clark.
Vann was sentenced in September 2009 and he was
ordered to register as a sex offender after his release in 2013.
Vann last registered as a sex offender in Lake
County, Indiana, in August 2013, using the address of 1428 E. 50th Ct.
in Gary, according to online records.
Indiana court records show Vann was arrested in
April 2004 and charged with residential entry and intimidation
stemming from an incident in Gary. As part of an agreement with
prosecutors, he pleaded guilty in June 2004 to misdemeanor residential
entry, while the felony charge of intimidation was dropped, court
He was sentenced to a year in jail and a year on
In September 2005, Vann admitted to violating rules
of his probation and he was sentenced to 90 days in jail, court
On Monday, Vann's brother, Reginald Beard, 30,
stood in the front doorway of his Gary home and apologized to the
“To the victims, I'm sorry for their loss,” Beard
said. “I'm a father of two daughters myself. This comes as a shock to
us and our household…This is a painful moment for us too.”
Reached by telephone Monday, a woman who identified
herself as Vann’s ex-wife called the news a “shocker.”
“Oh … I don’t believe it,” said the woman, who did
not want her name published. “I am half-way in shock,” she said.
The woman said she met Vann through a friend and
they were married in 1995, but had been estranged since 2005. She said
he never mistreated her.
“You know, he was always OK,” the woman said. “I
don’t really know what else to say. He is nothing like that.”
Her son -- who also didn’t want his name used --
said he was often suspicious of Vann and said Vann sometimes talked to
himself and had other odd habits. He also noted that his mother is
considerably older than Vann and he never understood why Vann was
interested in her.
“He was strange, he was weird,” the son said.
Vann’s former wife said he served in the Marines
and is originally from Gary. He has worked security and maintenance
jobs in Texas and Indiana.
Records show Vann’s wife filed for divorce in Lake
County Circuit Court in August 2009, citing an “irretrievable
breakdown,” according to the court file. The divorce was finalized in
2010 after Vann failed to show up for court proceedings, records show.
Beard said his brother had lived on East 50th Court
-- a neighborhood of single-story ranch homes dotted with vacant lots
and overgrown brush -- after he returned to Indiana from Texas. He had
been splitting time between there and their sister's house, Beard
Beard said he found out about his brother's arrest
Saturday before he went to work.
“They came to my sister's house,” Beard said.
“Apparently all this went down at my sister's house. Like I said, he
flops around a lot since he's been in and out.”
Beard said he needed to find a new place to stay
out of fear for himself and his daughters. He froze for a second after
learning the crimes could go back decades, his mouth slightly open.
Then he drove away.
Like many of Gary’s residential neighborhoods, the
400 block of East 43rd Avenue is filled with overgrown yards,
including the tan and gray wood-frame home where three of the bodies
were found. On Monday, the door to the front door to the home stood
open. The two houses next to the property also appeared abandoned and
overgrown by trees and tall grasses.
The block was mostly silent except for a few people
who wandered by to see where the bodies had been found.
Resident Joe Castillo said that for years he has
tried to get the city to either clean up around the vacant homes or
tear them down, but his pleas have gone unanswered.
“It used to be a nice community here, but slowly
people started moving out,” said Castillo, 68, who lives next door to
three vacant houses, including the one where the bodies were found.
“My main concern was it made us unsafe. It's only me and my wife here.
I'm afraid to leave her here by herself.”
Castillo said he never saw anyone coming or going
to the vacant houses — but then again, he couldn't. The yards are so
overgrown with tree limbs, bushes and grass that they are almost not
visible. The houses have been vacant for nearly a decade, he said.
“I hope now the city will do something,” he said.
“These are livable houses. There are good people here. But because of
so many abandoned houses, it only attracts the rats.”
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Monday
authorities were “looking at what might be done with cadaver dogs and
other investigative tools to ensure that we are not going to find dead
bodies in other buildings.”
The mayor said she believed Vann preyed on
individuals who “might be less likely to be reported missing.”
When asked if some of the remains were skeletal,
Freeman-Wilson said: “Some of them were significantly decomposed. I
wouldn’t characterize them at this juncture as skeletal.”
Tribune reporters Deanese Williams-Harris and Liam