GARY, Ind. - The man whose alleged confession to one killing led Indiana police to the grisly discovery of six other deaths has been identified by authorities as 43-year-old Darren Vann, a convicted sex offender in Texas.
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said Vann, of Gary, Ind., confessed to killing Afrikka Hardy, a 19-year-old woman whose body was found Friday in a Motel 6 in Hammond, and indicated to authorities there could be more victims going back 20 years.
Vann was charged Monday in the strangulation death of Hardy.
Doughty said Vann met Hardy at the motel after responding to an ad posted on a Chicago-area website advertising prostitution.
Another woman facilitated the meeting between Hardy and Vann and called police when she received suspicious text messages from Hardy's phone, Doughty said. Fearing for Hardy's safety, she called a male friend and went to the hotel, where they found Hardy's body and called police.
Doughty said the woman who facilitated the meeting provided investigators with Vann's phone number and police tracked him down in Gary.
Doughty said Vann was cooperative during his arrest and said "he had messed up by committing the crime in Hammond and was surprised by how quickly he was located."
Following his arrest, investigators say Vann then told them where six other bodies could be found in abandoned homes in Gary.
One of those bodies was found Saturday night in an abandoned home there. The coroner said family members identified her as 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville, Ind., who had been missing since Oct. 8.
The five other bodies were found on Sunday in various Gary homes - including two more in the same home where Jones' body was found on Saturday, the coroner's office said Monday. Autopsies are pending on the three women found in that one house. The causes of death were not specified for all the victims.
The other victims have been identified by police as 28-year-old Teairra Batey, of Gary; 36-year-old Christine Williams, of Gary; and 3 unidentified African American females.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said only Anith Jones was reported missing, perhaps indicating that Vann "preyed on individuals that might be less likely to be reported missing."
Authorities say the investigation into the deaths is ongoing.
"It is possible that the investigation will lead to more victims," Police Chief Doughty said, adding that Vann's alleged crimes could go back 20 years.
Vann was convicted in 2009 of sexual assaulting a 25-year-old female in Texas and was sentenced to five years in prison. The state's sex offender registry lists Vann as being a "low" risk.
The victim in the 2009 case told police 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.
Vann allowed the woman to leave and she called police the next day.