Suspected Serial Killer Held in Contempt After Giving Judge Silent Treatment

Darren Deon Vann, 43, made first appearance before Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivann on charges he strangled 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy to death

A man charged with killing a sex worker and suspected in the deaths of at least six other women was held in contempt of court Wednesday when he refused to utter a word to the judge during his initial court appearance.

Darren Deon Vann, 43, sat silently as Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivan attempted to put Vann under oath during a hearing at the Lake County (Indiana) Jail.

"He will stay in jail for the rest of his life until this hearing takes place," Sullivan was heard saying before putting the case on hold until Oct. 29 and agreeing to a defense motion for a gag order.

"See you in a week," she said.

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Vann, of Gary, was charged with murder and robbery in connection with the strangulation death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy in Hammond. Once arrested, officials said Vann opened up about other crimes and told them where six more bodies could be found.

Wednesday's hearing was in connection to the Hardy case. Vann has not been charged with the other homicides, and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Vann can't be arraigned on any other crimes because of the judge's contempt of court order.

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Buncich added that Vann had previously been cooperative during questioning but was apparently upset about the number of media personnel present and about the fact that his first appearance was in the jail and not a regular courtroom.

"His demeanor today changed," Buncich said.

Investigators from the Gary Police Department were to get an opportunity to speak with Vann alone after the court appearance but the judge's order now means they can't approach him for questioning.

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By Wednesday morning, just three of the six bodies Vann helped police find in Gary had been positively identified: 35-year-old Anith Jones, 28-year-old Teairra Batey, and 36-year-old Kristine Williams.

Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey on Tuesday asked asking for the public's help in identifying two of the women who were recovered over the weekend. Anyone with information is asked to call the Lake County Coroner’s Office at 219-755-3265.

10/21/2014: Officers search abandoned homes in Gary for more victims of a suspected serial killer. Christian Farr reports.
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