Update: Yesterday, we told you about the murder in Indiana of recent Aurora resident Afrikka Hardy and the investigation that led to the discovery of six additional bodies; see our previous coverage below. Now, the suspect in the case has been identified as Darren Vann, 43, a convicted sex offender who'd previously been considered a low risk to the public. Continue for more photos, a video and the chilling details.
As we've reported, Hardy, nineteen, had lived in Aurora for five years before heading back to her previous home of Indiana. Her mom, who still lives in Colorado and is understandably heartbroken by the startling turn of events, told Fox31 that Hardy was four months pregnant.
CBS News reports that Vann connected with Hardy via a listing on Backpage.com, a service owned by Westword's former parent company. That relationship ended more than two years ago.
Hardy reportedly met a man at a Motel 6 in the Indiana community of Hammond. A short time later, the woman who is said to have "facilitated" the rendezvous received a text message from Hardy's phone that concerned her. She and a male friend subsequently went to the motel, where they found Hardy's body. She'd been strangled to death.
Shortly thereafter, the facilitator provided police with a phone number for Vann. Police traced him to this home in Gary....
...and he was taken into custody without incident. Before long, he began telling authorities about additional victims, whose remains were located in abandoned Gary residences like this one:
The first of six women found thus far was Anith Jones....
...who'd been reported missing earlier this month. Two others have been ID'd as Gary residents Teairra Batey and Christine Williams, neither of whom had been the subject of missing-persons reports; officials have speculated that Vann preyed on women unlikely to spur such alerts. Three additional victims remain unidentified at this writing.
Vann, meanwhile, has quite a criminal history.
Vann is a registered sex offender, as demonstrated by this screen capture of online info shared by Heavy.com:
The Texas-based incident that led to his 2009 conviction involved a 25-year-old woman who'd gone to Vann's apartment. There, he allegedly asked if she was a police officer, and when she answered in the negative, he hit her, knocked her down, strangled her, threatened to kill her and then raped her -- after which he allowed her to leave.
The woman reported Vann to the police the next day, and he was eventually convicted and given a five-year prison sentence. Based on the facts of the case, it's difficult to understand why Vann was considered low-risk, but that is indeed the designation he was given by the Texas legal system.
The work of police in Indiana and quite possibly beyond is only beginning, since investigators fear Vann left other victims in his wake. Hammond Police Chief John Doughty told reporters killings may go back twenty years.
Our sincere condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Hardy, Jones, Batey, Williams and other victims not yet identified.
Here's a look at Vann's most recent booking photo, followed by a CBS News report and our previous coverage.
Original post, 8:59 a.m. October 20: The most horrifying and gruesome crime story in the country at this writing has a tragic tie to Colorado.
Until a few months ago, Afrikka Hardy, nineteen, lived in Aurora. But she recently relocated to Indiana, where she was murdered -- and the thus-far-unidentified man thought to have committed this heinous act is suspected of being a serial killer who took the lives of seven women, and possibly more. Photos, a video and the disturbing details below.
Hardy's Facebook page features many portraits of the young woman, including this one....
...as well as the following triptych....
...and the most recent shot, posted on October 10:
Fox31 interviewed Hardy's distraught mom, Loria Townsend, an Aurora resident.
Townsend told the station that she and Hardy had been located in Aurora for five years. But after graduating from high school early, she went on, Hardy decided to move back to Indiana, where they'd lived previously. She added that Hardy was four months pregnant.
For Townsend, the news about Hardy's death reached her via Facebook message.
What happened? According to News5 in Chicago, police in the Indiana community of Hammond received a call about an unresponsive person found at a local Motel 6 on Friday evening.
That person has been identified as Hardy. She'd been strangled to death. Fox31 shares speculation that she'd gone to the motel after being hired through an online escort service.
The investigation into Hardy's death led investigators to a 43-year-old man living in Gary, Indiana. He was taken into custody and reportedly confessed to killing Hardy.
But that's not all. The man reportedly provided information about several other dead women. Late Saturday, they found one of them, ID'd as Anith Jones, who'd been missing since October 8. A second victim was located at approximately 1 a.m. on Sunday, and a third less than an hour later.
An additional three bodies were located by day's end, bringing the total number of victims discovered thus far to seven.
All of the bodies other than Hardy's were located in abandoned homes in the Gary area.
Many of the specifics made public to date were shared on Facebook by Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. Here's a post from yesterday morning:
The suspect Hammond arrested for the motel 6 murder is an admitted serial killer. The suspect gave up the location of a body in Gary that was confirmed found where he said it would be.
The suspect has given us another body location in Gary we will be checking as well. He also admitted to a couple of homicides in Hammond back in 94 or 95. The suspect is a convicted sexual offender as well.
Great job to the Hammond Police on getting this sexual predator off the Region streets.
In another post, McDermott wrote that the man is "a suspect in many murders, spanning many years, in NWI [Northwestern Indiana]."
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Our condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Hardy and all the victims in this case. Here's a NBC5 report about the latest developments.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.