GARY — Months before a suspected serial killer allegedly admitted to killing seven women, a woman he met through backpage.com told police he raped and beat her, according to court records.
The details of that assault were outlined in an affidavit filed Monday in Lake County Criminal Court. Darren D. Vann, 44, of Gary, was charged with two counts of rape, attempted murder, two counts of criminal deviate conduct, four counts of criminal confinement and theft.
The woman told police she arranged to meet Vann on Feb. 19, 2014, at a home in the 1400 block of East 50th Court in Gary. The woman worked as an escort because she was addicted to drugs.
When the woman got to the home, Vann allegedly came outside armed with a knife and told her, "You do what I tell you to do and you will be able to leave," according to the affidavit.
Vann took the woman inside the home, raped her without a condom and forced her to engage in oral sex, according to the affidavit. She told police she was raped three times while she was inside the home.
At one point, the woman fought with Vann as she tried to leave the home. According to the affidavit, the woman was punched and choked until she became unconscious. He allegedly tied her hands behind her back using a rope.
The woman later told police he had also taken her car keys and cellphone.
Vann put a coat over the woman and put something in her mouth when he walked her to the passenger seat of her car. He then drove to an area near 25th Avenue and Broadway in Gary.
Once there, Vann began fighting with the woman, but she was able to scream for help after getting the item out of her mouth. Vann ran away after two people approached the vehicle, and one of the bystanders fired a shot into the air.
Police were called to the scene, and a rape kit later was collected at an area hospital. The woman told police she did not initially pursue charges, because the officer who took the initial report made her feel uncomfortable.
The woman told detectives she later saw Vann on news reports and recognized him as the person who had raped her, according to the affidavit.
Detectives investigating the homicides of seven women Vann allegedly admitted killing, interviewed the woman last June after coming across the initial report.
Vann additionally was charged this week with five counts of murder. In total, he now faces seven murder charges, and the state is seeking the death penalty in each case.
The women Vann is accused of strangling to death are Afrikka Hardy, Anith Jones, Teaira Batey, Kristine Williams, Tracy L. Martin, Sonya Billingsley and Tanya Gatlin. Hardy's body was found in October 2014 at a Hammond motel. Police officers investigating Hardy's homicide were led to Vann who then allegedly admitted to killing the six other women whose bodies were found in abandoned homes in Gary.
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Barbara Dufresne, Martin's aunt, said she thought charges would never be filed in her niece's homicide. She regularly attended Vann's court hearings, hoping her presence would convince prosecutors to file charges.
"I appreciate the hard work to get justice for all seven women," she said. "It's made my heart really happy."
Martin's mother, Linda Felinski, said she was glad Vann would be held accountable for her daughter's murder, though that still doesn't make the homicide right or what happened better.
"This man treated them as if they were disposable and trash," Felinski said. "They all had people who loved them. They were human beings. I'm so grateful that the detectives and the people involved in the case treated them as such."
She said her daughter, like many of the other women in the case, made a wrong turn somewhere and couldn't get out of the cycle of drug addiction.
Felinski said her daughter, who she described as outgoing and smart, tried to stop doing drugs several times, but she relapsed each time.
"(The women) were more than what they were being portrayed as," she said.
Marvin Clinton, the boyfriend of Teaira Batey, said he, too, was glad charges were filed in the homicides.
He said learning the details of Batey's homicide was hard to swallow, but he still has some questions about her death such as how exactly she came into contact with Vann.
"No matter what they do to him, it's not going to bring back Teaira or any of these women," he said.
Clinton and Felinski said they hoped Vann would plead guilty to spare the families the emotions involved in trials.
Vann remains without bail in Lake County Jail pending a July 25 jury trial on the first two counts of murder. In those cases, Vann has pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed Hardy and Jones.
He is expected to appear Friday in front of Lake County Criminal Judge Samuel Cappas for a hearing to determine if the murder charges in the homicides of Hardy and Jones will be separated or heard by one jury.
Vann also was additionally charged this week in a separate case with battery by bodily waste, a Level 6 felony. He is accused of on Feb. 24 throwing urine and feces at a correctional officer, according to court records.