Police have identified a convicted sex offender as a suspect in the deaths of seven women whose bodies were found in Gary and Hammond, Ind., over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Darren Deon Vann, 43, was arrested Friday night, after a woman was found strangled at a Motel 6 in Hammond, police announced Monday at a news conference. Since then, investigators have discovered the bodies of six other women in Gary, including at least two Black women.
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said authorities are also investigating claims by Vann that he has killed other people “going back 20 years in the state of Indiana.” Of his alleged victims, Vann said only one woman was reported to police as missing.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. called Vann a “serial killer” in a Facebook post Sunday afternoon and said Vann has “admitted to a couple of homicides in Hammond” that date back to 1994 or 1995. If true, Vann would join the ranks of just a handful of Black serial killers who have been discovered by law enforcement.
So far, police charge that Vann’s victims include Afrikka Hardy, 19, who was found at the Motel 6, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, Ind., who had been missing since October 8th. Jones was found over the weekend. Both women are Black.
Other alleged victims, according to ABC7 reports, include Teairra Batey, 28, of Gary, who was found Sunday in an abandoned home in Gary. Another victim, still unidentified, was also found in the 2200-block of Massachusetts Street in Gary.
On Sunday evening, the body of Christine Williams, 26, was found in Gary. Hours later, two more bodies were found in the 400-block of east 43rd Avenue. They have not been identified.
Vann is a convicted sex offender from Austin, Texas, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson told CNN. He also had a conviction from Lake County, Ind., that was “not in the sex offender category,” she said. “He certainly was cooperative. He led [police] to the locations of these bodies. Whether he was eager or not, I’m not in a position to say that,” she said.
Several police agencies are now working the case, which could expand in to at least one other state, the mayor said.
Vann told investigators he had “messed up” by committing the crime in Hammond and was surprised how quickly he was located after the incident.
He lives in Gary and is a registered sex offender in Texas, for a 2009 conviction.
The reaction from neighbors near the abandoned home where bodies were found in Gary is what you would expect – disbelief and relief – that a suspected killer is off the streets and in police custody.
In an area where abandoned homes are a magnet for criminal activity, residents are concerned that seven bodies have been found.
“It’s scary,” said neighbor Patty Mattingly. “I’m glad he’s caught. I don’t know how many more there could be. There is closure for the family, but this is just a shame.”