Suspected serial killer Darren Vann charged in 2nd death

CROWN POINT, Ind. (WLS) -- Darren Deon Vann was charged in the murder of Anith Jones, 35, hours after his first court appearance for the murder of Afrikka Hardy, 19.

The alleged serial killer was charged Wednesday afternoon with murder, murder in perpetration of a robbery and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury.

Jones, of Merillville, Ind., was the first victim located in Gary after Vann was arrested and began describing locations where he left bodies. According to the police affidavit, Vann gave police a videotaped confession to her murder which included explicit detail.

Police said Vann, 43, was hired to kill Jones by someone who wanted her silenced because of a legal matter. Vann was allegedly offered $500 in cash and drugs to solicit Jones for sex online and then kill her.

The search for additional victims expanded to south suburban Harvey and Markham Wednesday afternoon after police received information about Vann being seen in that area. There is currently no indication of any Illinois victims.

Vann goes quiet in court

Wednesday morning, Vann was held in contempt of court after he refused to speak during his first court appearance.

Reporters were allowed to attend the hearing in a secure courtroom inside the Lake County jail. Vann initially refused to enter the courtroom. When he did, he refused to open his mouth.

Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan gave Vann three opportunities to answer her question as to whether he was prepared to answer truthfully, but Vann stood silent. Sullivan then said, "You'll stay in jail for the rest of your life until this hearing is held." Again, he did not respond. He was returned to his cell after three minutes in the courtroom.

He reportedly asked his lawyer before the hearing why so many reporters were present and why the proceeding was being held in a secure courtroom. According to investigators from Gary, Hammond and the FBI, Vann has been cooperative and communicative from the moment he was taken into custody.

"All I can say is that his demeanor here while he's been incarcerated has been calm and quiet and collected. And this morning was the first indication where he tried to be disruptive or uncooperative," Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said.

The judge also imposed a gag order on everyone associated with the case, meaning that police cannot talk about the investigation and Vann is not to be spoken to unless he requests the communication or his attorney is present.

The hearing was rescheduled for next Wednesday, October 29. Until Vann agrees to partake in his arraignment, he can be jailed indefinitely.

On Monday, Vann was charged in the murder of Afrikka Hardy, 19, who was found strangled in a Hammond motel room Friday night. Following his arrest, he took police to six other crime scenes, mostly abandoned homes in Gary, where he said he had dumped the bodies.

Three of those six bodies have been identified as Anith Jones, 35; Teaira Batey, 28; and Kristine Williams, 36. The other three bodies remain Jane Does. The family of 52-year-old Sonja Billingsley fear she may be one of the unidentified victims. Billingsley disappeared from her Gary home last February.

Merrilee Frey, coroner for Lake County, Ind., said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the remains of two of the unidentified women were partially skeletonized, but an ID on the third Jane Doe appears likely.

"We may have a possible lead by the telephone calls we've received through the missing person reports," Frey said. "We will be conducting DNA analysis with her family."
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