The man who police say confessed to killing a woman then led police to the bodies of six others in northwestern Indiana is a registered sex offender in Texas.
Murder charges were filed Monday against Darren Deon Vann after 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy was found strangled to death Friday night at a Motel 6 in Hammond.
Vann, 43, of Gary, was charged with one count of murder, as well as murder in the perpetration of a robbery and robbery resulting in serious bodily harm, all related to Hardy's death.
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said Vann met Hardy last Friday in a room at a Motel 6 on the 3800 block of 179th Street after arranging a sexual encounter online. Hardy had been strangled, and Hammond Police Lt. Richard Hoyda said Sunday that as part of the investigation into her death, police served a search warrant on a home on 49th Avenue in Gary, where Vann was taken into custody.
Doughty did not rule out the possibility that the ongoing investigation would reveal more victims.
"It could go back as far as 20 years, based on some statements we have," Doughty said.
Court records show Vann was convicted in September 2009 of Aggravated Sexual Assault -- a 1st Degree Felony -- stemming from a December 2007 incident in Austin, Texas.
According to court records, Vann met a suspected sex worker near his apartment in Travis County, Texas. He initially told her his name was Dean and brought the woman up to his second-floor apartment, where he then attacked her.
Court records show that he tripped her and strangled her. The victim later told police she felt her body go limp and thought he was going to kill her. That’s when he threatened her, struck her several times in the head and then forced her to have sex.
“I don’t have a specific reason why he does this,” said Hammond Police Chief John Doughty.
Just three years prior, in another state, Vann was arrested for threatening his ex-girlfriend. According to court records, Vann poured gasoline on himself and the house of his estranged ex-girlfriend in Lake County, Indiana. Police said he then put her in a headlock and dragged her down an alley.
Vann took a plea deal and served 90 days in jail, received probation and community service.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said authorities weren't sure how long Vann had been in northwestern Indiana, although he does have a conviction for residential entry in the area. The mayor said she doesn't know whether more bodies might be found.
"There are court records indicating that he was here back in 2004 [and] 2005, but there are also records that he was in Austin, Texas, and so he appears to be a person who has moved back and forth between a number of states," Freeman-Wilson told reporters early Monday.
Court records in Cook County show no criminal history for Vann, but traffic records do show that he had some encounter with Calumet City police on December 16, 1993, when he would have been 22 years old. In that case he was found guilty of "aggravated fleeing police" and, according to records, jailed for that offense the following August.
Several other traffic charges related to that same encounter, including speeding more than 20 mph over the speed limit, running red lights, and improper lane usage, were dismissed.
Regarding the most recent cases, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Vann is "what I would label a serial killer."
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said Vann was arrested shortly after Hardy's body was discovered inside the room at the Motel 6. Doughty said Vann confessed to killing the woman and then provided information that led to the discovery of six other victims.