The mother of a 19-year-old allegedly killed by an Indiana serial killer has spoken of her grief at discovering her daughter had been murdered.
Afrikka Hardy’s body was found Friday in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond, 20 miles southeast of Chicago.
Darren Vann, 43, a convicted sex offender admitted to murdering Hardy, and according to police confessed to a murderous spree that dates back 20 years.
Today her mother Lori Townsend told ABC News: ‘We were best friends. She was a fighter from the time she was born.’
She told how her daughter had left home in Colorado only three months ago to start a new life.
She said she tried to use FaceTime to video chat with her daughter about an hour before the time that police said she died.
Serial killer? Darren Vann, 43, a convicted sex offender admitted to murdering Hardy
‘I can’t tell her I love her anymore,’ she said. ‘I can’t give her hugs, I can’t give her kisses.’
Police said Hardy was involved in a prostitution ring, but her mother said she did not know about this and it was probably a way for her daughter to make money.
She said she thought that Backpage.com – the website where Hardy had advertised her services as a prostitute, was the issue.
‘That’s the real story behind this,’ she said.
‘These girls get caught up in this industry. It’s good money.’
Vann was charged Monday in the strangulation death of Hardy – he also was charged with murder in commission of a robbery and robbery causing great bodily injury.
A probable cause affidavit said police identified Vann from surveillance video outside the motel.
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said Vann confessed to Hardy’s slaying and directed police to six bodies in abandoned homes in nearby Gary.
Charges in those cases are expected this week.
Today the coroner identified one of the woman as 36-year-old Kristine Williams of Gary.
Williams’ family has been notified, Coroner Merrilee Frey said, and her identity was confirmed, reports NBC Chicago.
An autopsy was performed Monday, but the manner and cause of her death are pending.
Now the Lake County coroner is asking for the public’s help in identifying two of the women.
One unidentified woman was found Sunday in the 400 block of 43rd Avenue in Gary.
The woman was wearing a silver linked bracelet with “Best Aunt” on top, a silver ring with a heart shape and a silver ring with scalloped engravings. The woman was approximately 5ft 3.
The other was found Sunday in the 4300 block of Massachusetts in Gary. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans by RUE21 and white Nike gym shoes. The individual was approximately 5 feet tall.
Doughty said Hardy was involved in prostitution and had arranged to meet Vann at the motel through a Chicago-area website.
Police were called by someone who attempted to reach Hardy but received text message responses that made no sense and that she believed came from the suspect.
Police took Vann into custody Saturday afternoon, and during interviews the suspect confessed to Hardy’s killing, told investigators where the Gary bodies could be found and hinted at other victims since the 1990s, Doughty said.
Determining whether others have fallen prey to Darren Vann, 43, a former Marine convicted of sexual assault in Texas in 2009, could take years, a former high-ranking agent at the FBI’s Chicago office said.
Investigators ‘have concerns’ that Vann could have victims in other states, according to Bob Ramsey, the supervisory special agent for the FBI office in Merrillville, Ind, reports the Chicago Tribune.
‘We are looking beyond Lake County and he has been cooperative,’ Ramsey said, adding that local police have built a ‘great rapport’ with Vann.
‘He is talking, and what we’re looking to do now is to verify some of the information that he has been providing.’
That some of his alleged victims may have been prostitutes or had fallen through society’s cracks could also complicate the investigation.
‘It does make it difficult. It indicates he preyed on individuals that might be less likely to be reported missing,’ said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.
Police in Gary and Austin, Texas, said they are reviewing missing person reports and unsolved cases to determine whether any might be connected to Vann after he indicated during interviews that he had killed before.
Former FBI agent Joseph Ways Sr., now executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, a non-governmental watchdog group, told The Associated Press that such investigations can stretch into years. Investigators will trace Vann’s footsteps, down to examining gas receipts and toll both records, to learn where he traveled.
Ways said teenagers or adults who maintain close contact with their families are typically reported missing quickly, but that’s not always the case for those engaged in prostitution, he said.
‘If one of them goes missing for days or weeks, it might be that nobody notices,’ he said. ‘It’s a shame.’
The backgrounds of the other victims weren’t immediately revealed.
‘It could go back as far as 20 years based on some statements we have, but that has yet to be corroborated,’ Doughty said.
The Gary slayings appeared to have happened recently, he said.
The body of one victim, 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville, Indiana, was found Saturday night in an abandoned home. She had been missing since Oct. 8.
Five more bodies were found Sunday in other homes.
Doughty identified two of the women as Gary residents Teaira Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36.
Police have not determined the identities of the other three women, including two whose bodies were found on the same block where Jones’ body was found.
Austin police on Monday said they would review potential related cases based on information provided by Indiana police.
Vann is registered as a sex offender in Texas, where the Department of Public Safety listed his risk of attacking someone again as ‘low.’ He did not register in Indiana.
Court records in Travis County, Texas, show Vann served a five-year prison sentence, with credit for the 15 months he was in jail awaiting trial, after pleading guilty in 2009 to sexually assaulting a woman at an Austin apartment two years earlier.
The woman told police that she went to Vann’s apartment, where he asked if she was a police officer. After she told him no, he knocked her down, strangled her, hit her several times in the face and told her he could kill her. He then raped her.
Vann allowed the woman to leave and she called police the next day.
The circumstances of that case had similarities to Hardy’s death, according to the victim’s mother and court records.
Lori Townsend said police told her that Vann asked her daughter to perform a certain sex act, and ‘when she said `no’ and put up a fight, he snapped and strangled her.’
Vann told police Hardy began to fight during sex and that he strangled her with his hands and an extension cord, the probable cause affidavit says.
‘This man is sick,’ Townsend said from her home in Colorado.
Source: Daily Mail