GARY, IN — While awaiting trial for the strangling deaths of two women in Northwest Indiana, a former Marine pleaded guilty to a total of seven murders and will now escape the death penalty. His reason for killing, he said, was “anger” over having to go to jail previously for a 2007 sexual assault.
Police initially arrested Darren Vann, 47, for the murders of Afrikka Hardy, 19, and Anitha Jones, 25 in 2014. Because he stalked and killed in and around Gary, Indiana, Vann has acquired the nickname “The Gary Strangler.”
While under interrogation, Vann confessed to arranging online to pay for sex with Hardy at a motel where, instead, he strangled her to death with an electrical cord and dumped her body in the bathtub. From there, Vann admitted to six more murders he perpetrated between August 2013 and October 2014. He also personally led officers to the women’s remains.
The other victims have been identified as Teaira Batey, 28; Tracy Martin, 41; Kristine Williams, 36; Sonya Billingsley; and Tanya Gatlin, 27.
With his trial due to come up in October, Vann last Friday switched his not-guilty plea to guilty for all seven cases. He reportedly also explained to police his reason for killing, stating:
“Just, I guess, anger. ’Cause I feel like I shouldn’t have went to prison the first time. You see what I’m saying?”
Vann’s killing spree commenced shortly in 2013 after he moved back to Indiana after finishing a five-year jail term for a sexual assault in Texas.
Upon his release, the Texas Department of Safety’s sex-offender registry ranked Vann as “low risk” and, since he was not on probation, he was allowed to move out of state.
In addition to the murders, Vann faced charges regarding a 2014 rape and a 2016 incident in which he threw feces and urine at a corrections officer. It’s also worth noting that, in 1993, Van received an “other than honorable” discharge from the Marine Corps.
Prosecutors had been planning to argue for the death penalty at Vann’s trial, but, with his plea agreement, the state will now “refrain” from such pursuit.
Vann’s sentencing is scheduled for this Friday. He is expected to receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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Main photo: Darren Vann [Lake County Sheriff’s Dept]