Authorities identify man held in Indiana after bodies of 7 women found

Posted at 1:28 PM, Oct 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-20 13:28:39-04

(CNN) — The 43-year-old Gary, Indiana, man in police custody in connection with the bodies of seven women found in Hammond and Gary has been identified as Darren Vann, according to Hammond Police Chief John Doughty.

It started with one body at a motel in Hammond, Indiana.

By the next day, a 43-year-old Gary man was in custody, and his confession, police say, would lead them to three other women’s bodies. They’d find three more the next day.

The bodies were found in four locations, and the man “continues to provide information of possible locations, not just in Gary but in other parts of northwest Indiana,” Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson told CNN.

“It’s quite possible that there may be more victims,” the mayor said.

Though the man hasn’t been charged or identified, local headlines blare and residents wonder: Did police find a serial killer?

Authorities have yet to label the man as such.

Police were told Friday night that an unresponsive woman was found in a room at a Motel 6 off Interstate 80, Lt. Richard Hoyda of the Hammond Police Department said. The 19-year-old woman had been killed by strangulation,CNN affiliate WGN reported.

Detectives developed a lead that led them Saturday to Gary, where they executed search warrants on a home and vehicle and took a person of interest into custody, Hoyda told CNN.

“The search warrant was executed not at the residence of the suspect but at a location near to the reported suspect’s home in Gary,” he said in a statement.

The man made a confession and took detectives to Gary, where “several other female victims of possible homicide” were found, Hoyda said. Three women were found in three abandoned homes Saturday, and police found three other bodies Sunday, Freeman-Wilson said.

Two of the seven bodies recovered have been identified, said Chelsea Whittington, a spokeswoman for Freeman-Wilson.

Afrikka Hardy, 19, was the woman found at the Motel 6, and Anith Jones, 35 of Merrillville, who had been missing since October 8, was found over the weekend, she said.

The five other women have yet to be identified, Whittington said. Freeman-Wilson said she was not aware of any connection among the women but noted that only two had been identified.

A man living next door to where one of the bodies was found told CNN affiliate WSBTthat he believes the crimes occurred recently.

“Somebody had to come in there like last week or something, because (Northern Indiana Public Service Company) and the water company were there turning off the power and stuff, so there was no one in there,” Justin Jones said.

Suspect ‘certainly was cooperative’

The man in custody, who is talking to police, is a convicted sex offender from Austin, Texas, Freeman-Wilson said. He also had a conviction out of Lake County, Indiana, that was “not in the sex offender category,” she said.

“He certainly was cooperative. He led (police) to the locations of these bodies. Whether he was eager or not, I’m not in a position to say that,” she said.

Several police agencies are now working the case, which could grow larger and expand into at least one other state, the mayor said.

In total, seven women were found — one at the Motel 6 and six at undisclosed locations, the Lake County Coroner’s Office told CNN.

The Gary man in custody is a suspect in at least one of the deaths, police said in a statement that didn’t explain why he had yet to be connected to the other deaths when authorities allege he confessed.