CHICAGO — More than two years after the Chicago Police Department announced a review of more than 50 unsolved strangulation murders — mostly of Black women on Chicago’s South and West sides — CPD detectives hit the road for the Wabash Valley Corrections Facility in Southern Indiana.
They wanted to speak with Darren Vann, a serial killer who, in 2018, was sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to murdering seven women in Northwest Indiana.
The detectives’ June 2021 visit, though, would prove fruitless. Vann refused to answer any of their questions, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
Vann, now 51, was taken into custody in October 2014, just hours after the remains of Afrikka Hardy were discovered in a room at the Motel 6 in Hammond. Hardy was working as a prostitute, and Vann told police that he strangled Hardy after she hit him as the two were having sex.
Video footage of Vann’s initial interview with Hammond detectives, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, was made public last year. During the interview, Vann claimed to have “way more” victims in Illinois.
Vann’s attorney did not respond to inquiries seeking comment. A CPD spokesperson also declined to comment on detectives’ efforts to interview Vann.
Eventually, Vann would lead investigators to the locations of six more of his victims, whose bodies were hidden in vacant buildings throughout Gary. Vann claimed to have murdered several more people in different states over several decades, but he wouldn’t divulge any specifics, apparently in an effort to avoid further prosecution.
“I really can’t give you Illinois because Illinois probably has a whole lot of … They have more than Indiana, let’s put it like that,” Vann told Hammond detectives in 2014. “They have way more than Indiana.”
Amid mounting public pressure, former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson announced in April 2019 that detectives would begin a review of 51 unsolved murders of women dating back to 2001.
Around the same time, Thomas Hargrove of the non-profit Murder Accountability Project, sent a letter to Chicago’s City Council that said there was a high likelihood of at least one serial killer being responsible for the killings. In 2010, Hargrove reached out to police in Gary to tell them that a serial killer was likely in the area. He never received a response.
To date, CPD officials maintain that there is no evidence to suggest the work of a serial killer.
Lt. Steven Kellogg, a spokesman for the Hammond Police Department, said that Hammond detectives did tell police agencies in Illinois — including the CPD — about Vann’s claim of “more victims” on the other side of the state line.
However, Kellogg could not say exactly when that information was relayed, just that the message was delivered “as soon as it was practical in the investigation.”