A former Marine accused of stalking and preying on women, typically at an Indiana hangout popular with drug dealers and prostitutes, has pleaded guilty to seven murders.
Prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty for 47-year-old Darren Deon Vann, who was slated for trial in the fall for the slayings of 19-year-old Afrika Hardy and 35-year-old Anith Jones. Authorities said he strangled them both.
Vann’s defense team instead requested a hearing Thursday and he entered the surprise guilty plea the following day as part of an agreement with the state that calls for him to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The serial killer and convicted sex offender is scheduled to be formally sentenced May 25.
Vann was arrested in October 2014 after Hardy was found strangled in the bathtub at a Hammond Motel 6. Authorities used the victim’s phone records to track down Vann, who confessed to the murder during police questioning.
Amid the interview, Vann admitted to several more murders and led police to the bodies of six other women he had hidden inside abandoned buildings in Gary.
He was also charged with killing 28-year-old Teaira Batey, 41-year-old Tracy Martin, 36-year-old Kristine Williams, 53-year-old Sonya Billingsley and 27-year-old Tonya Gatlin.
When asked by detectives why he kicked off his killing spree in Indiana, Vann told them: “Just I guess anger. Cause I feel I shouldn’t have went to prison the first time. You see what I’m saying?”
He returned to Gary in July 2013 after he was released from prison in Texas, where he was jailed on a sexual assault charge involving a prostitute.
He also served in the Marines, but received an “other than honorable” discharge in 1993.
Families and loved ones of the victims gathered in the courtroom Friday and listened quietly as Vann entered his seven guilty pleas.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter called him “one of the prolific serial killers” his office has ever dealt with, according to The Northwest Indiana Times.
Marvin Clinton, the longtime boyfriend of Batey, said he feels relieved now that Vann has officially taken responsiblity for the slayings.
“The death penalty would have been the easy way out. I want him to suffer. These women will haunt him for the rest of his life,” he told the newspaper.
“I prefer him to stay locked up so, when he goes to bed at night and closes his eyes he sees these women.”
With News Wire Services