Sunday, October 19, 2014
Now that you mention it..........
Police found the body of Afrikka Hardy, 19, in a Hammond Indiana Motel 6 on October 17 2014. A fiend of hers called the police because they were concerned that she was not responding to phone calls and Hardy's body was discovered in the motel room at 9:30 pm. She had been strangled to death and by the afternoon of Oct 18, they had developed a person of interest that they needed to interview.
The 43 year old man from Gary Indiana confessed to killing Hardy and then told police that he had killed at least three others that he could lead them to the bodies of. It has been reported that he acted alone and may have killed several others in Indiana and Illinois. The man led them to two abandoned homes in Gary Indiana where the police recovered two bodies and a third location that has not been named yet. All of the bodies were within a four mile radius of each other.
One of those bodies has been identified as Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, who has been missing since she left Gary City Court on Oct 8 2014. Jones's car was recovered on the evening of Oct 10 2014 and police had stated then that they had found evidence within it that led them to believe that she may have been a victim of foul play. Police organized a search of the Colonial Gardens neighborhood where her 2001 Chevrolet Prism was found parked in the driveway of a vacant house. No trace of her was found in that area, not even by the cadaver dog.
Jones has been described as being very street savvy, wise and had a lot of common sense. She had been in court for a misdemeanor battery case that had occurred at the Majestic Star Casino and both parties involved settled it amicably. She was reported missing to the Hammond police on Oct 10 after the Gary police would not take the report. They joined the case after her car was discovered in Gary. Jones was identified by family members on Sunday.
The police have not released any information yet as to the identities of the other two victims, how the suspect met them of what the motive for killing them could have been. They did state that the believe that he may have met Hardy through a website called Backpage.com but they have not confirmed that is definitely how he had met all of the victims.
The police have not yet identified who the 43 year old suspect is because he has not been formally charged with the women's deaths. They also would not state when they believed that would happen either. He is currently being held at the Hammond City Jail.
Update Oct 20 2014:
The police have reported that another three bodies have been found late Sunday night in Gary Indiana. Those three bodies were found in two different locations and the coroner has stated that three of the bodies found so far were found at the same abandoned house in Gary. The police have still not named their suspect and state that they will not do so until they charge the man.
The coroner has stated that one of the new victims found had been strangled but did not specify how the other two may have died. It has been reported that two other bodies had been found at the same abandoned home that Anith Jones had been found earlier in the weekend. The police have not stated if they are searching for more bodies or if their suspect has given them information relating to even more murders.
A source has stated that the man who is being held is a convicted sex offender from Austin TX and the police have information that he was in Texas as well as many other states in the US. Local authorities do not want to use the label of serial killer as of yet and would prefer to continue investigating the man and his activities before trying to explain the charges he may be facing. So far they are only willing to state that he has been tied to the death of Hardy, which had sparked the new discoveries. Several police agencies are now involved in the case and it may still expand to at least one other state.
Update Oct 20 2014:
Police have identified their suspect connected to the seven bodies that have been found so far in Indiana as Darren Deon Vann. They have stated that Vann told them that he had messed up in the killing of Hardy and he was surprised that they had found him as quickly as they did. Vann had been convicted of first degree aggravated assault in Travis County TX. He was convicted of assaulting a 25 year old woman in September of 2009.
Vann evidently lived for some time at a home in the 1400 block of East 50th Court and is said to have split his time living with his sister and his brother's home since he returned from Texas. His brother Reginald Beard, 30, apologized to the victims families and stated he did not know what could have motivated him to do this. He seemed shocked when he was told that his brother could have been doing this for decades.
The police have stated that Vann is still cooperating with police and that several other police departments are investigating the possibility that Vann may have been involved with murders in their jurisdictions. They have stated that it was a female who facilitated the transaction between Vann and Hardy who first became suspicious. She tried to contact Hardy and received texts she believed were from Vann so she sent a male friend over to check on Hardy. It was this man who found the body and police were then contacted.
They have also identified two other victims as Teaira Bately, 28 and Christine Williams, 36. Vann is a former Marine and had been sentenced to five years in prison in TX for attempting to strangle the 25 year old woman. He was released from jail on July 5 2013 with time credited for the time he was in prison before sentencing. He and his former wife, Maria Vann, 72, were married from 1995 to 2010 and it is reported that the marriage went sour when when he started going to nightclubs without him. Vann had been arrested in April 2004 in Gary IN for residential entry and intimidation but pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of residential entry in June 2004. He was sentenced to year in jail and a year probation but violated that in Sept 2005 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Maria reportedly met Vann in Hammond IN but married him in Austin TX and she stated that she had never seen him become violent. His ex wife, who is about 29 years older than him states that he was enlisted in the Marines through their marriage until he was honorably discharged. He then held several jobs including security work and maintenance in both Texas and Indiana. She stated that their marriage began to develop problems in 2000 when he began going to bars without her and they were estranged by 2005. They were divorced in 2010 when he failed to attend the court hearing for the divorce. They had no children together but she has three children from another relationship as well as a goddaughter who lived with them for some time.
She moved back to Indiana in 2000 and Vann followed her there and worked at a casino in the area doing housekeeping. She then states that she moved back to Texas in 2006 and he followed her again, evidently trying to make the marriage work but she stated that she wanted her freedom. She adds that she has had no contact with him in at least the past six years. Vann evidently moved back to Gary Indiana in 2004 and then was sentenced for the assault that happened in 2007 in 2009.
Some of the homes that the bodies were found in have been vacant for a decade and neighbors state that they are so overgrown that it would be difficult to see anyone coming and going at the properties. The police have not stated whether they will continue searching for more bodies in the area or other counties.
Update Oct 21 2014:
Darren Vann seems to have been escalating in his criminal life for some twenty years. His criminal record stretches back to 1993 when he received speeding tickets and was caught driving without a license in North Carolina. In Calumet City IL, he pleaded guilty to aggravated fleeing from police.
In April 2004, he poured gasoline over himself and his then girlfriend, wrapped an arm around her neck and threatened to set them both on fire. The reports state that she was screaming to be let go and Vann, who identified himself as "Harvey" kept threatening to torch them both. The responding officers managed to keep him from doing that until a SWAT team arrived and took him down. Vann served a ninety day sentence in jail for a misdemeanor residential entry charge instead of the felony he had been charged with.
The aggravated sexual assault charge that he served time in Texas for involved a scenario that is similar to what supposedly happened to Afrikka Hardy. The woman stated that she responded to a service call from her employer and Vann attacked her, started to strangle her and yelled that he could kill her. He then forced her to perform oral sex on him and then raped her. He was a registered sex offender in Gary when he got of prison in 2013 and a recent check on him had shown that he was living at the address he listed and seemed to have no issues. Evidently, he has had many years to perfect his technique and at appearing normal.
The police in North Carolina are looking at whether Darren Vann may have been responsible for a cold case dating back to 1992. The case involves the murder of Camille Whalen, 25, in the town of Havelock North Carolina. Vann was in the Marines and stationed at Cherry Air Station from 1991 to 1993 and the town borders the military station. Whalen was a hitchhiker and had been strangled and stabbed before her body was dumped near a baseball field in 1992. Vann had been stationed in NC before he received an "other than honorable" discharge. The police in North Carolina are investigating to see if anything matches with Vann since he has told police in Indiana that he has left bodies in other states.
Update Oct 22 2014:
Teaira Batey's mother stated that she knew something was very wrong when she missed her 2 year old son's birthday party. Batey had lived in St Paul Minnesota from the age of 4 to 18 years old and graduated from Highland Park Senior high School in 2004. She was only 27 years old when she went missing last January 2014 in Gary IN.
Her boyfriend and father of her son, Marvin Clinton, agrees with her mother, Gloria Collum, that they don't think that Teaira knew Vann before she met with him. Gloria last saw her daughter on Jan 13 when they returned to the home they shared. She met a friend outside and told her mother she would be back as she left with the friend. She did not return that night but did call her mother the next night and was crying and sounded scared. She tried to convince her daughter to come home but it sounded as if Teaira wanted to say more but was afraid to. They kept calling and texting her phone but never got an answer from her.
She did report her daughter as missing to the police but there has been no explanation as to why there wasn't much of a search for her. They had not immediately reported her missing because she was known to go off at times for days or even a week at a time. Police at one point suggested that maybe she had gone off to start a new life. She stated that Teaira was a grown woman but had the mind of a 12 year old. She suffered from seizures and the resulting mental problems it caused. Batey had previously lost parental rights to her two older daughters who are now 6 and 8 years old and they have been adopted by another family. She had been released from jail in November 2013 after serving seven months for a drug conviction. Gloria stated that she had quit drugs and was attending parenting classes to help get her life back on track.
Teaira had been planning a birthday party for her son Trevon at Chuck E Cheese for the end of January and she would have never missed it. Marvin states that by the end of February or the beginning of March, he had started hearing rumors that Teaira was dead and that her body was in an abandoned building. He states that he told the police then about the rumors but after he was told that they did not have the manpower to search all abandoned properties, he began searching for her himself.
Batey's body was found in an abandoned house about 1 1/2 miles from where she had been living. Gloria states that she knew it was Teaira from the description of the clothing on one body and she was identified through dental records. The police had not told her how Teaira was killed though. The police are now reviewing about 70 missing persons cases going back to 2010.
Update Oct 22 2014:
Vann has been held in contempt of court after refusing to answer Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivan's questions. He stated that this was in part because of the presence of the media in the courtroom. She reset a court appearance for him for next week and added that he could stay in jail forever if he continues to refuse to speak. Odd behavior for someone who has already led the police to six bodies that he hid. He did not want to go into court at first but the judge stated that he had to and it was open to the public and the media.
He stated that he was surprised by all of the media that had shown up and asked why his hearing had not been held in the county's main courthouse. The judge also ordered a gag order be kept in place and that Vann not speak to the police anymore unless he chose to do so. He has been charged with the murder of Afrikka Hardy and now has had three more charges added in relation to the death of Anith Jones. He is charged with murder, murder in the perpetration of a robbery and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury.
Update Oct 23 2014:
Kristine Williams's, 36, father learned of her death from the Lake County Coroner and that she is one of Darren Vann's victims. He had been told that they believe that she has been dead from ten months to a year. Her remains appear to have been mummified naturally which made identification easier. The last three unidentified victims that he led police to are almost skeletal remains of which, only one so far has a possible identification pending.
He stated that his daughter was no angel and had her share of troubles and run-ins with the law but she is still a victim. He added that something like this makes you realize how important life really is though and he feels that he will continue to feel the pain of losing his daughter even if Vann is executed for his crimes.
Police are now using Vann's cellphone records in an attempt to track to track his movements in the past. He has allegedly told police that he liked to go back and check on his victims to check the status of older kills after he had just killed again. Vann also has told police that he killed Jones after a friend of his approached him and told him that Jones had to go because of an upcoming legal matter. The friend offered him $300 and $200 worth of drugs to kill her.
Vann stated that he contacted Jones, who his friend said was an escort, about a month to a month and a half before he killed her. He spent time building a rapport with her and then met her at her home in Merrillville about a week and a half before he was arrested. He added that they had consensual sex before he wrapped a cord around her neck and killed her. He told police that he then stuffed her body in a metal trashcan and left her in a wooded area until later that same night. Later that night he moved her body to a vacant house in Gary, dumped her and covered her body up with teddy bears and tires to conceal it.
Police have stated that they have seized a computer and a tool bag from Vann's home in their search for more evidence. The tool bag contained a belt from a bathrobe that had two knots in it but Vann has stated that he had not used that in any of the murders. He did state that he had been planning to use it on a future victim when the opportunity arose. The police have stated that they are fielding calls from worried families of missing women and are trying to find if any of them may match the still unidentified bodies they have.
Update Oct 28 2014:
The judge has placed a gag order on the police so they are not going to be "leaking" any new information about Vann.... unless they discover new bodies or new charges against him. They are also blocked from speaking to him unless they gain permission through his lawyer.
What has been revealed is how Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg has defended her offer of a plea deal to Vann on the charges he faced in Texas in 2009. The original charges could have left Vann facing 99 years in jail if he had been found guilty and the maximum sentence was imposed. She stated that his criminal history check had not revealed any prior history, meaning that the charge he pleaded down to in 2004 did not appear on the check.
That would be the incident where he threatened to torch himself and a woman he was holding by the throat in front of police. The case had many strengths to it for a conviction such as links to the apartment where the attack occurred as well as his DNA on the victim's sweater. They also stated that they were looking to make a deal for a guilty plea because the case had weaknesses as well, such as the loss of some of the DNA evidence. They cited the victim making inconsistent statements as to what had happened that night so two of the other charges were dropped against Vann. They did manage to recommend that he serve the full five years of his sentence.
Vann's budding case as a possible serial killer has also pointed out the problem that Gary IN has with abandoned homes, a problem which is in many other regions of the US. Officials in Gary estimate that they have approximately 10,000 abandoned homes that are a magnet for all sorts of criminal activity, squatters and as they have now discovered, body dumping. A recent, ongoing survey has found that almost one fifth of the homes in Gary are abandoned and they are moving as fast as the courts and funding will allow them to demolish them. The city of Detroit estimates that they have over 40,000 abandoned homes and they are working at a rate of over 100 a week being demolished.
It is sad that it may take finding a serial killer to bring a city-wide problem to the fore front of city planning and budgets.
A bit of a side-bar: There is a fund trying to raise funds to pay for the cost of cremation and the return of Afrikka's body to Colorado @ http://www.gofundme.com/HerNameIsAfrikka ........ sadly, it has only raised $3,050 of the $5,000 that is asked for. Sad because the fund for alleged killer Tommy Schaefer raised over $10,000 before that was closed down.
Update Oct 29 2014:
Darren Vann has evidently decided that the process has to continue........ he entered court today and quietly answered all of the judge's questions. She entered an informal not guilty plea on his behalf and both the judge and his attorney have 20 days in which to change that. She set his next court date for Jan 9 2015 for both of the cases he has been charged in.