CROWN POINT — A criminal court judge ruled Friday the FBI would be afforded more time to obtain data from cell phones collected during its investigation into murders allegedly committed by Darren Vann.
Judge Samuel L. Cappas also ruled the state was permitted to use broad language in subpoenas for records from Lake County Jail, the U.S. Marines and Vann's former high school.
The judge's rulings stymied defense attorneys' efforts to limit the state's case against Darren Vann, an alleged serial killer charged in the murders of seven women.
Vann is scheduled to appear at trial Oct. 22 in the murder of two women — Afrika Hardy and Anith Jones.
Hardy, 19, was found dead in a bathtub Oct. 17, 2014, in a motel room in Hammond. Vann was arrested in Hardy's death and allegedly admitted he killed six other women, including Jones, 35, whose body was found in an abandoned house in Gary.
The defense filed a motion last month arguing the state had dithered in providing the defense data collected from three cell phones connected to the investigation into the women's killings.
Defense attorney Gojko Kasich said Friday the defense had been provided data from two of the cell phones since the motion's filing, but the FBI was still collecting data from a third cell phone.
He said the FBI was attempting to retrieve the data without using “chip off” forensics, a method of information retrieval that requires the phone's destruction, which slowed the process.
He asked if the judge would not exclude the evidence at trial, would he instead set a reasonable date for when the information will be provided to defense attorneys.
Cappas said he did not want to second-guess the FBI's methods, but he agreed to issue an order for the bureau to provide a report on the investigation's status by April 20.
Defense attorney Matthew Fech argued a second motion filed last month related to the state's subpoena for records from Lake County Jail, the U.S. Marines and Lima (Ohio) Senior High School.
Vann was discharged from the U.S. Marines after serving from 1991 to 1993, primarily as a hawk missile system operator. He attended Lima Senior High School before enlisting with the Marines.
Fech argued the state's subpoenas were “overly broad.” He suggested prosecutors Bernard Carter and Michelle Jatkiewicz were on a “fishing expedition” intended to find information that would aid in rebuttal at the death penalty phase of the trial, assuming Vann is convicted of the murders.
He asked the judge to issue a protective order, which would exclude the evidence at trial or at least require the state to make more specific requests for records.
Cappas denied the defense's motion. He said it was up to the agencies subpoenaed to determine whether the requests were overly broad.
A future court date for Vann was not scheduled at Friday's hearing.