One of seven women whose bodies were discovered in Indiana over the weekend was remembered as a "fighter" Monday, as authorities continued to investigate a killing they now believe uncovered a string of slayings by a suspected serial killer.
“She left this world fighting,” Lori Townsend said of her daughter, 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy.
Officials said the bodies of seven women, including Hardy, were found in abandoned homes and in a motel in Northwest Indiana. Authorities believe they are the victims of a suspected serial killer, whose killings could go back as far as 20 years.
Darren Deon 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 the death of Hardy. Police said Vann, a registered sex offender in Texas, gave authorities information that led them to the other bodies after he was taken into custody in connection with Hardy's death.
Hardy was strangled to death Friday in a Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana. She was found naked in a bathtub with what appeared to be a black piece of clothing covering her arms and around her neck, according to a probable cause affidavit.
“She didn’t bother nobody,” said Hardy’s grandmother Debra Allen. “Everyone loved her. She wasn’t a bad person and didn’t deserve this at all.”
Police said all seven women were sex workers, and Hardy is believed to be the youngest victim.
Hardy’s mother said she had no idea her daughter had fallen into prostitution.
“I’m not grasping this,” said Townsend. “It’s not real to me.”
Aside from Hardy, three of the victims were publicly identified by midday Monday: 35-year-old Anith Jones, 28-year-old Teairra Batey, and 36-year-old Christine Williams.
Batey’s boyfriend, Marvin Clinton, says she had been missing since January.
“She was a good person,” said Clinton. “She would give you her last.”
He said the two have a 2-year-old son together.
"Now I've got to sit here and figure out how to tell a 2-year-old that mommy's never coming home again," said Clinton.
Jones’ family reported her missing on Oct. 8. They say she left Chicago for Indiana about 10 years ago.
Family members of the victims said no matter what the women did to earn a living, they were still loved.
“My heart breaks for these girls and their families,” said Townsend. “Some of them were missing for months.”