Alleged serial killer Darren Deon Vann was charged Wednesday in the death of Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, Indiana, whose body was found Saturday. Vann already had been charged in the death of Afrika Hardy, 19, whose body was found Friday. Earlier in the day, Vann had refused to answer questions Wednesday during his initial hearing in the Hardy case. Vann, 43, of Gary, stood silently next to his public defender, Matthew Fech, as Lake Superior Court Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan asked him to be placed under oath. “Mr. Vann, are you choosing not to participate in this hearing?” Sullivan asked. Earlier in the day, Vann had refused to answer questions Wednesday during his initial hearing in the Hardy case.
Vann, 43, of Gary, stood silently next to his public defender, Matthew Fech, as Lake Superior Court Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan asked him to be placed under oath. “Mr. Vann, are you choosing not to participate in this hearing?” Sullivan asked. In Gary, a team of 20 police officers used a cadaver dog to comb through abandoned houses near sites where bodies were found. Just over the state line, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart sent deputies into several homes in Chicago’s south suburbs. Neither agency reported finding any additional bodies, but they undertook the task after Vann was arrested. Police said Vann admitted to other murders dating back 20 years. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Marine Corps released to the Chicago Sun-Times some details about Vann’s military service.
It shows he was trained as a Hawk missile system operator and was stationed at various times in California, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina. But it also shows his service in the Corps was abbreviated; he was discharged in September 1993, less than two years after enlisting in December 1991. He held the rank of private and was awarded the National Defense Service Medal. In releasing those details, the Marine Corps spokeswoman also noted that: “Mr. Vann’s premature discharge and rank are indicative of the fact that the character of his service was incongruent with Marine Corps’ expectations and standards. Due to the associated administrative processes, further details are not releasable at this time.”
Court records show Vann has a history of violence toward women in both Indiana and Texas. He served a five-year sentence in Texas for sexual assault. During his 2009 sentencing hearing, prosecutors brought up another attack in which he hit a woman in the face and attempted to force her into his apartment in Austin, Texas. During a 2004 standoff with Gary police, Vann doused himself and his then-girlfriend with gasoline and threatened to set them both on fire, according to court records and an officer who was at scene. He was later convicted of the minor offense of misdemeanor residential entry. Law-enforcement agencies say they will continue searching vacant homes. Gary officials said in a statement that vacant homes will be boarded up and marked for demolition after they are searched. So far, about 90 of the city’s 10,000 vacant buildings have been cleared, according to the city. In Chicago’s Cook County, Sheriff Dart said even though there isn’t hard evidence that Vann was active in Illinois, officers are still scouring cold cases and missing persons reports. “A guy who was prolifically killing people, why would he care about a boundary?” Dart said.