Who is Darren Deon Vann? Inside the case of one of Indiana’s most prolific serial killers.
There’s a shady underground that seethes in this country where men pray on innocent women. It’s like playing the lottery. Women buy a ticket thinking they are gonna win only to scratch the ticket and find an evil joker lurking beneath.
Afrikka Hardy was one such woman. Nineteen years old, she was beautiful. Full of spirit and vivacity. She had only recently come to Chicago. She had family there. Her mom, Lori Townsend, had stayed behind in Aurora, Colorado where they had been living for the past 5 years. Afrikka dreamed of being famous one day. Something she told her mother often. Afrikka probably never dreamed of being famous this way. Because of Afrikka’s death a serial killer was exposed and brought to justice, allowing other families in limbo some measure of peace. For that Lori Townsend feels her daughter’s death was not in vain.
So where does Darren Deon Vann fit in this story, who is he? He’s the evil joker who made Afrikka famous and a monster that plagued Gary Indiana; killing at least 7 women. And there are clues that he may have killed a total of 18 women.
Not much is known about Darren Vann’s early life. We do know that he was born on March 21, 1971 in Indiana. He did not spend his entire life in Indiana moving to Cherry Hill, North Carolina in the early 1990’s. While there it is believed he had his first brush with the law. Records do not indicate exactly what he was arrested for or if he went to jail. During this time he married a woman who was 30 years older than him, much to the dismay of her son.
In an interview with Greg Botelho of CNN, Vann’s step-son stated that he was leery of Vann who often talked to himself. The son expressed he did not allow Vann near his kids or in his home. Vann’s stepson told Botelho that the two moved to Austin and that Vann often spent time in the more “rough” areas of town.
Upon losing his job through a temp agency, Vann and his wife decided to move from Austin to Gary. While in Gary, he began seeing another woman. In April 2004, Vann was found holding that woman hostage with a can of gasoline and a lighter. He was charged with a Class D Felony and spent 90 days in jail. Once released, he decided to pack up and head back to Austin. It was in Austin that his behavior began to escalate. Vann connected with a woman through an escort service and met up with her in an Apartment. While there he raped, beat and attempted to choke the woman. He was eventually indicted on this crime in July 2008 and sentenced to 5 years in prison. During this time his 16 year marriage to his wife dissolved and she divorced him. He was released on July 5, 2013. He registered as a sex offender and returned to Gary. Authorities in Austin deemed him a low risk and he was able to fly under the radar.
Once in Indiana he began to hook up with women via backpage.com. October 17, 2014 is when he hooked up with Afrikka Hardy. She met up with Vann at a Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana. Sometime during that night the woman who had helped to arrange Vann and Hardy’s meeting began texting Hardy. The woman felt the responses she was receiving were suspicious so she and and a male friend went to the motel around 9:30 pm. Upon arrival, they found Afrikka strangled to death in the bathtub. Police used Afrikka’s phone records and traced her last activity to Vann. Vann was found to have Afrikka’s pink cell phone in his possession. Vann was quickly arrested and charged with her murder. Once arrested he confessed to not only the murder of Afrikka, but to a total of 7 women. He then led police on a gruesome tour through the city to find the other women.
On March 8, 2016 Vann was charged with rape, attempted murder, criminal deviate conduct and criminal confinement related to a separate incident that occurred with another woman he met through backpage.com. He lured this woman to what was the home of his brother. His brother lived there with his girlfriend and children. Once there, Vann repeatedly raped the woman. At one point she fought to get away and he tied her up and raped her again. He kept her there for at least 2 hours. He then put a hooded coat over her head, gagged her and forced her into the his car. He began to drive through town where she fought with him again. She managed to free herself from the gag and scream. A couple of passerby's heard and came to her aid. One shot his gun into the air spooking Vann who then ran away on foot. It wasn’t until she saw Vann’s arrest for the string of murders on the TV that she made the connection, some 19 months after the incident.
Vann plead guilty to all 7 murders and on May 25, 2018 he was sentenced to life in prison. Thomas Hargrove, who founded the Murder Accountability Project, used a mathematical algorithm to determine that Vann may have murdered a total of 18 women, to which the coroner was in agreement. Currently, the police are not investigating any additional murders nor has Vann plead guilty to such. Incidentally Vann was charged on February 24, 2016 with battery by bodily waste after he threw a carton filled with urine and feces at a correctional officer.
Kraus, R. A. (2016, March 8, 2016). Sex charge filed against vann in 2014 attack. Post-Tribune. Retrieved from www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-vann-sex-charges-st-0309-20160308-story.html
Murderpedia. (n.d.). www.murderpedia.org/male.V/v/vann-darren.htm
Smith, M., & Bosman, J. (2014, October 20, 2014). Motel meeting in indiana leads to gruesome discovery. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2014/10/21/us/bodies-of-7-women-found-in-northwestern-indiana.html