Police: Alleged serial killer tied to seven slayings ‘basking in the glory’ and ‘reliving everything’

SHARE Police: Alleged serial killer tied to seven slayings ‘basking in the glory’ and ‘reliving everything’

Darren D. Vann led Gary police on a bloody scavenger hunt this weekend.

He pointed them to bodies of his alleged victims scattered in basements and empty, run-down buildings all over northwest Indiana’s Steel City, authorities said.

To the body of Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville. And Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary. And others whose identities are still unknown.

Police believe Vann used an online prostitution service to lure women to Hammond and Gary — typically to empty buildings — before killing them.

And they said he’s enjoyed showing off his handiwork.

Darren D. Vann | Lake County police photo

Darren D. Vann is in custody. | Lake County police photo

“He’s basking in the glory,” one detective said. “He is reliving everything, seeing photos of the victims, dead and alive.”

Police have connected Vann, 43, to seven victims and “we have no idea how many more” are out there, the detective said. Vann allegedly admitted to killings dating back 20 years.

But he also said he wants to die, authorities said. He admitted he “messed up” after Afrika Hardy, 19, was found strangled to death Friday night at a Motel 6 in Hammond. Prosecutors charged him with murder and robbery Monday afternoon in connection with Hardy’s death.

Investigators are still gathering evidence to charge Vann with the other six. And Cook County Sheriff’s detectives are now looking into cold murder cases, particularly in the south suburbs.

Vann’s ex-wife was stunned Monday to learn he might be connected to a string of homicides.

“Oh my gosh, it would shock me,” said the woman, who said she was married to the suspect from 1995 to 2011 and didn’t want her name used. “I can’t see him doing that.”

RELATED: Ex-wife of accused killer is stunned by allegations

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she’s not sure how long Vann has lived in northwest Indiana.

Police were told a man using the name “Big Boy Appetite” arranged a meeting with Hardy on Friday, according to documents filed with the criminal charges. But when the woman who had set up Hardy with the man tried to contact her and received suspicious text messages in return, she went with a male friend to the hotel room to see what was wrong. They found Hardy dead, police said.

Surveillance footage showed a man later identified as Vann arriving at the motel, then later running from the room to a blue Jeep and driving away. The SUV was registered to Vann’s sister in the 600 block of West 49th Avenue in Gary, where police set up surveillance, according to court documents.

Vann was arrested at a friend’s home in the 800 block of E. 49th and later told police Hardy had begun to fight with him during sex. He said he strangled her with his hands, while wearing white gloves, and then used an extension cord before placing her in the bathtub and leaving.

Hardy’s mother, Lori Townsend, said Monday her daughter was originally from the Chicago area but lived in Colorado since she was 9 years old. Hardy moved back to the Chicago area because “she wanted to spread her wings,” Townsend told the Chicago Sun-Times.

RELATED: Mom of Hammond victim says daughter ‘was too trusting’

Hardy turned out to be the first of seven women who would be found dead this weekend in northwest Indiana. Once in custody, Vann told police where to find three more bodies, officials said.

He led police Saturday night to an empty home in the 400 block of E. 43rd in Gary. Officers saw blood on the stairs to the basement and found the body of Anith Jones, who was reported missing Oct. 8.

One of Jones’ sisters, Yolanda Nowell, said she’s glad to hear police have someone in custody and said she wanted to be “left alone to grieve.”

“She was a kind, loving woman,” Nowell said of her sister. “She was my favorite sister. She was everybody’s favorite aunt.”

Jones had a stand at the 41st Avenue and Calumet Street flea market, Nowell said, and had moved from Chicago to Northwest Indiana about 10 years ago. She was one of seven siblings.

Though Vann told police where to find Jones, he initially failed to mention two dead bodies in the basement next door. As Vann continued talking to police, crime lab detectives and the coroner would return Sunday night to recover the bodies of those women, who have not been identified.

Teaira Batey was in a vacant, run-down home in the 1800 block of E. 19th. She’d been reported missing in January.

Other victims were found in the 2200 and 4300 blocks of Massachusetts.

The cases Gary police are investigating all happened in the last two years, sources said. Before that, Vann lived in Texas. He served a 5-year prison sentence there for sexually assaulting an Austin woman in his apartment, authorities said.

That victim was also a prostitute, according to a warrant for his arrest for the December 2007 attack. She was told by her boss to meet “Dean” in the parking lot outside Vann’s apartment, the warrant says. But when she showed up, Vann met her, took her to this room, asked her if she was a cop, then tripped her up and tried to strangle her.

Vann threatened to kill her, hit her several times in the face and raped her before letting her go, the warrant says.

Vann Probable Cause

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Vann affidavit

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Contributing: Mitch Dudek, Frank Main, Kim Janssen, Michelle Quinn, Christin Nance Lazerus, Ruth Ann Krause, Carole Carlson.

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