The Knox native whose decomposing body was found covered in plastic in the basement of a vacant home in Gary in October of 2014 was apparently killed over a $40 rock of crack and a misunderstanding.
Darren Deon Vann, 44, of Gary, was charged this week in the murders of Kristine Williams and four other women. He led investigators from the Hammond Police Department to their bodies after his arrest for the Oct. 17, 2014 murder of a prostitute at a Motel 6 in Hammond.
Detectives found Williams’ body two days later and identified her through dental records. The autopsy report indicates she was strangled to death and dumped in the basement sometime on or before Sept. 1, 2014. Her exact date of death is unknown. Vann claimed he killed Williams less than six months before her body was found. She was never reported missing.
Vann told investigators Williams, whom he knew as “Casper,” was one of his “mistakes” and said she “got in the way of his anger.” Vann said he knew her because he sold her drugs and beat and strangled her to death because he thought she was avoiding him. He later learned she was in jail, according to court records. Vann identified Williams through photos shown to him by investigators. When asked if he knew her real name, Vann reportedly told investigators they would have to ask her “landlord.” That’s street slang for pimp, according to the detective.
Court documents indicate all of Vann’s victims were prostitutes and frequented an area of Gary known as the “Hoe Stroll.” Vann is also accused of murdering Williams’ roommate, Tanya Gatlin. Both women’s bodies were found within half a mile of where they lived.
Court records indicate Vann arrived in Indiana in August of 2013, following his release from the Texas Department of Correction, and resided in Gary. He was registered there as a sex offender. All five of the women he’s admitted to killing disappeared after he moved to the area and were involved in prostitution in the “Hoe Stroll” area. The investigator adds Vann was specific in the location of the victims and how to get to their bodies inside the houses.
Darren Deon Vann is charged with five counts of murder in connection with the killings of the following victims: Teaira Batey, Tracy Martin, Kristine Williams, Sonya Billingsley and Tanya Gatlin.
He’s also charged with two counts of rape, attempted murder, two counts of criminal deviate conduct, two counts of criminal confinement as a Class B felony, two counts of criminal confinement as a Class C felony and theft as a Class D felony in connection with a Feb. 19, 2014 incident involving an admitted escort named Sarah Parati-Palhegyi who advertised her services on Backpage. Court documents indicate she identified Vann as the man she says raped and confined her as part of a photo line-up. She says he punched and choked her unconscious, tied her up when she tried to get away, stuffed her body in a car and drove across town. She managed to escape when the car stopped and bystanders came to her aid, according to investigators.
Vann was also charged in 2014 with murder and robbery in connection with the deaths of Afrika Hardy and Antith Jones, both of Merrillville.