Let me apologize for my absence, I’ve been spending time filming the hit show CHICAGO PD, starring a great, up and coming actor named LaRoyce Hawkins; as well as the upcoming Fox series EMPIRE with acclaimed stunt performer Eddie J. Fernandez and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard. My participation in these productions can be considered minimal at best but hopefully won’t end on the cutting room floor. However minute my role; it was a pleasure to be in the company of these talented actors. Unfortunately, news out of nearby Hammond, Indiana brought me back to earth and returned me to my original calling.
The body of 19 year old Afrikka Hardy was found at a Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana on October 17th. Friends of Ms. Hardy had begun to text her after her disappearance and became apprehensive when they received suspicious text responses believing that they were from the suspect. Evidence collected from the crime scene led to of 43 year old Darren Deon Vann being considered a suspect. After obtaining a search warrant, authorities arrested Vann near his Gary, Indiana home.
Once in custody, Vann began a horrific tale of the internet, prostitution and murder. Vann’s confession led authorities to the discovery of 6 additional bodies in the Northwestern Indiana area. Vann told interrogators how he arranged a rendezvous with Ms. Hardy who posted her “services” on an internet site. While in custody Vann confessed to the murders of Anith Jones, Teaira Batey and four other women from the Hammond/ Gary area. The current number of Northwestern Indiana murder victims in which Vann may be responsible is now at 7. Statements made during the course of his confession lead authorities to believe that the overall death toll may be much higher and his spree may extend back over 20 years.
Darren Vann, the suspect in these serial murders is no stranger to law enforcement. A convicted sex offender from Austin, Texas, Vann pleaded guilty to rape in 2009. Before that conviction, he served a year in prison in Indiana after he grabbed a Gary woman in a chokehold in 2004, doused her with gasoline and threatened to set her on fire. The victim in the 2009 case told police that in 2007 she went to Vann’s apartment, where he asked if she was a police officer. After she told him no, he knocked her down and began to strangle and beat her, hitting her several times in the face and telling the woman he could kill her. He then raped her. Sentenced to 5 years Vann received 15 months credit for the time he was in jail awaiting trial and was released in 2013. Despite both incidents, Texas officials deemed him a low risk for violence. In a recent interview, Vann’s ex-wife, who asked not to be named, cited that she had not known Vann to be violent. The woman that happens to be 29 years older than Vann went on to add that she knew a different kind of man, one who was friendly, protective and not abusive. However her adult son had a different view of Darren Vann. Vann’s ex-wife’s son says he was “creepy” and “strange.
Vann, who is housed in Lake County Jail, located in Crown Point, IN is being charged with one murder however, other charges are said to be forthcoming. Lake County Jail is the pre-trial detention facility for those awaiting trial but unable to make bail arrangements. Gary and Hammond, Indiana are the cities in which the women’s bodies were located, and both fall within Lake County boundaries. A reliable source within the jail indicates that there had been a buzz among the female residents of the jail in recent months about the disappearance of several area women as well as to whom the culpability may fall. Through the pods and cells of the women’s jail, ladies would speak of missing relatives and friends many of whom had chosen prostitution as a means of survival.
Since his arrest, Darren Vann had been cooperating with authorities. During his interrogation Vann told investigators of the locations of victim’s bodies throughout the abandoned buildings in Gary. However, Vann’s cooperation ended recently at a magistrate hearing at Lake County Jail. Vann stood stone-faced and refused to acknowledge Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivan as she asked the defendant basic questions regarding his name and his ability to understand his
charges. In response the accused stood stoically, non-respondent to the questions posed to him by the judge. Sullivan then addressed Vann’s public defender, Matthew Fech, urging him to “tell your client that he stays in jail the rest of his life until this hearing takes place.” Ultimately, Vann was held in contempt and the hearing rescheduled for the following week
As we mentioned earlier there had been talk among area residents concerning several disappearances. In The Darker Side of Evil, we use the term, “throwaway people.” Individuals that society cares not to look at therefore are hardly missed if they disappear. The accused, Darren Deon Vann; took advantage of law enforcement’s lackadaisical approach to following up on missing person’s reports. We have human beings vanish from the face of the earth and no one willing to take the time and effort to look at the evidence in front of them to find them. We’ve seen this time and time again. Andre Crawford terrorized Chicago’s Englewood area in the 1990’s. In addition to similar M.O.’s and circumstances, the killer also made use of abandoned residences.
On the other hand we cannot place the blame totally upon law enforcement. In a blink of an eye mothers, daughters, sisters and wives all gone; never to be heard from
again. If we take time to take an interest in the lives of one another this sort of crime would be impossible. Tupac Shakur once said, “How can the devil take a brother if he is close to me?” Some of these victim’s remains were mummified and skeletal meaning that they had been deceased for several months. People, let’s take time to reconnect with that estranged family member, distant cousin or long lost friend. Let them know that even though you may or may not agree with the way they are living their life; you still care. Inquire about that person you haven’t seen in a while. If we actively and aggressively keep tabs on people in our lives it reduces the likelihood of tragedies such as this occurring. Any information concerning people that we haven’t seen in a while should be forwarded to law enforcement. Let’s assist these families in receiving closure for their missing loved ones.