HAMMOND, Indiana (Reuters) – A convicted sex offender suspected of murdering at least seven women and leaving the bodies in abandoned houses in northwest Indiana may be a serial killer who has killed others in the state as far back as 20 years ago, local police said on Monday.
Darren Vann, 43, of Gary, Indiana, was charged in Lake County with one of the seven murders, according to online court records. He was being held in custody, said John Doughty, police chief of the neighbouring city of Hammond.
Vann, a registered sex offender from a 2008 assault in Texas, was arrested in Gary on Saturday, a day after police were led to the slain body of 19-year-old Afrika Hardy in a Motel 6 in Hammond.
Doughty said Hardy had advertised sexual services on the classified ads website Backpage.com, and that she and Vann met at the motel. When Hardy did not return from the appointment, a woman who had helped to arrange the encounter went to track her down and found her dead from strangulation.
Once in custody Vann was cooperative, admitted his involvement in Hardy’s murder and led police to the bodies of six other women, all in abandoned houses in Gary, Doughty said.
“It could go back as far as 20 years based on some statements we have and that’s yet to be corroborated,” Doughty said. “It is possible other victims could surface.”
Doughty said the victims included Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, Teiarra Batey, 28, of Gary, and Christine Williams, 36, also of Gary. Three other victims have yet to be identified.