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Ex-Marine gets 7 life sentences for murdering 7 Indiana women

Darren Vann. Photo credit: National Sex Offender Registry

GARY, Ind. — The former Marine convicted of murdering seven women in northwestern Indiana was sentenced Friday to seven life sentences.

In a surprise move earlier this month, 47-year-old Darren Vann pleaded guilty to seven murders in a plea deal that spared him the death penalty.

Vann was scheduled to stand trial in October in the strangulation deaths of Afrikka Hardy, 19, of Hammond, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for Vann in their deaths.

Vann was arrested in October 2014 as police in Hammond investigated the killing of Hardy, whose body was found in a bathtub inside a Hammond motel room.

When Hammond police arrested him, Vann told them he had killed six women in Gary within the previous year. According to a probable cause affidavit, Vann called the women “mistakes,” and told police he would lead them to the other victims.

During the next several days, Vann led authorities to the bodies of the six other northwest Indiana women, whose remains had been hidden in abandoned buildings in Gary.

Vann was also charged with killing five Gary women: Teaira Batey, 28; Tracy Martin, 41; Kristine Williams, 36; Sonya Billingsley, 53; and Tanya Gatlin, 27.

Vann allegedly targeted women who lived near an area of Gary where women gathered to engage in prostitution or take drugs, according to court documents filed in March 2016.

When asked by Hammond detectives why he started killing women in northwest Indiana, an affidavit quoted him as saying, “Just I guess, anger. ‘Cause I feel I shouldn’t have went to prison the first time. You see what I’m saying?”

Vann had moved back to Gary after his July 2013 release from a Texas prison where he served time on a sexual assault charge involving a prostitute.

Vann served in the Marines but received an “other than honorable” discharge in 1993, authorities said.

At a hearing earlier this month, Batey’s longtime boyfriend, Marvin Clinton, said he was relieved that Vann finally admitted guilt.

Clinton had a son with Batey who is now 6.

“[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,” Clinton told The (Northwest Indiana) Times. “I prefer him to stay locked up, so when he goes to bed at night and closes his eyes, he sees these women.”