Darren Vann confessed to killing a total of seven women, whose bodies were found in and around Gary, Indiana, in 2014. Although he was originally facing two charges of first-degree murder, the Lake County prosecutor’s office added five additional charges on Monday. If convicted, the suspected serial killer could be sentenced to death.
In October 2014, authorities were called to the Hammond, Indiana, Motel Six, where a woman’s body was found in a bathtub. Detectives with the Hammond Police Department later confirmed 19-year-old Afrika Hardy was strangled to death.
Darren Vann was identified as a suspect, as he and Hardy met through an escort service and arranged to meet at the hotel. Following his arrest, Vann made a chilling confession that shook the entire region.
During a police interview, Darren admitted killing the teen and leaving her body in the hotel room. He also confessed to the murders of seven other women, whose bodies were dumped in abandon buildings throughout Gary, Indiana.
Darren Vann revealed the locations of his victims’ bodies during interrogation. However, it took nearly six months for authorities to identify the victims as Sonya Billingsley, 53, Tracy Lynn Martin, 41, Kristine Williams, 36, Anith Jones, 35, Teaira Batey, 28, and Tanya Gatlin, 27.
NWI Times reports Vann offered a variety of reasons for killing the women. However, authorities confirmed a majority of the victims were prostitutes and were likely chosen at random. Although some of the bodies were badly decomposed, officials believe all seven women were strangled to death.
In addition to the seven counts of murder, Darren Vann was charged with attempted murder, criminal confinement, and 10 counts of rape in an unrelated case.
— Scott Kleinberg (@scottkleinberg) March 8, 2016
Authorities did not discuss the details of the second case. However, they confirmed the charges are related to “incidents that happened in Gary.”
CNN reports Vann was convicted of his first felony crime in 2004. According to reports, he was arrested and charged with holding his then-girlfriend against her will and threatening her life.
In 2007, Darren was arrested and charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a 25-year-old Austin, Texas, woman he reportedly met through an escort service. According to court records, he confessed to physically assaulting and raping the victim multiple times. He subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Upon his release in July 2013, Darren Vann moved back to Gary, Indiana, where he was required to register as a “low risk” sex offender. Less than one year later, Vann began a killing spree that would span nearly nine months.
At the time of his October 2014 arrest, Darren was charged in the deaths of Afrika Hardy and Anith Jones. Five months later, prosecutors charged the suspected serial killer in the deaths of Teaira Batey, Sonya Billingsley, Tanya Gatlin, Tracy Martin, and Kristine Williams.
— nwi.com (@nwi) September 24, 2015
It is unclear what motivated Darren Vann to commit such heinous crimes. However, his former stepson, Edward Matlock, suggested the suspected serial killer could suffer from mental illness.
According to Matlock, Vann “seemed lost in thought” at times and occasionally “talked to himself.” In his opinion, the suspected serial killer “is a nutcase” who should not be trusted.
The Lake County prosecutor’s office confirmed they are seeking the death penalty on each of the seven murder charges, as there were “aggravating factors” associated with each homicide.
Darren Vann is currently being held at the Lake County Jail without bond. Although he confessed to the crimes, the suspected serial killer pleaded not guilty to all charges. His jury trial is scheduled to begin on July 25.
[Mugshot image via Lake County Sheriff’s Office]