GARY | The last two remaining Jane Does involved in the case of Darren Vann were identified Friday, nearly four months after their bodies were found in an abandoned building.
Gary residents Sonya Billingsley, 53, and Tanya Gatlin, 27, were identified Friday as the two women found inside 413 E. 43rd Ave. on Oct. 19, Lake County Coroner Merrillee Frey said.
DNA evidence analyzed by the Indiana State Crime Lab led to the positive identifications, Frey said.
Police found the women last fall after Vann, 43, of Gary, allegedly confessed to killing them and led detectives to abandoned homes where six of the women were found.
He currently faces two counts of murder in the strangulation deaths of Afrikka Hardy, 19, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville.
Besides Jones, it is still unknown what led to the homicides of the other women. However, the identification of all the women does give insight into a timeline for when they all went missing.
The family of Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary, previously told The Times she went missing in late January 2014. A few weeks later, Billingsley disappeared about 9 a.m. Feb. 7, 2014 after leaving her mother's home in the 4600 block of Connecticut Street in Gary.
Family members previously told The Times that Billingsley left the house after making a call and did not think she intended to be gone for too long because she was wearing curlers.
Billingsley's family told The Times shortly after Vann's arrest they feared she may have fallen victim to the accused killer. Salethia Sims, Billingsley's sister, previously said a relative thought Vann might have taken a missing person flier when the family passed them out.
"I just want to believe that she's going to come home and knock on the door," Sims said in October.
Billingsley's daughter, Samira, declined to comment Friday.
Tracy L. Martin, 41, of Gary, was released from prison June 26 and was reported missing within five days, according to the Indiana Department of Correction. She never reported to the parole office in Gary.
Jones was reported missing Oct. 10 and was last seen Oct. 8 leaving the Gary City Court. Her 2001 Chevrolet car was found Oct. 10 in the 4900 block of Louisiana Street, which was less than a half-mile from where Vann lived.
The family of Kristine Williams, 36, of Gary, previously said they last spoke to her about a year before her body was found.
Suzette Gatlin, the mother of Tanya Gatlin, said she hadn't heard from her daughter since January 2014. She had driven through the Gary neighborhood where Tanya Gatlin hung out - and where her body was discovered last fall – but never found her.
Tanya Gatlin, who has a 2-year-old son, struggled with addiction on and off for about 10 years but was a vivacious, sweet woman, her mother said.
There were times when Tanya Gatlin didn’t communicate with family, but she always came around for holidays, Suzette Gatlin said.
When Tanya Gatlin didn’t show up for her son’s second birthday, her mother began to fear the worst.
“I knew something happened to her because she wasn’t there,” she said.
You have free articles remaining.
Suzette Gatlin said the family moved from Highland to Gary about 12 years ago.
Tanya Gatlin started using crack cocaine at age 18 or 19, she said.
“I knew she used dope and prostituted,” she said.
Suzette Gatlin said her daughter had been independent from a very young age and moved out at age 18.
“Tanya was going to do what Tanya wanted to do,” she said.
“She was a party girl,” she said. “But when she wasn’t doing the crack, she was so happy, so sweet, always joking.”
The state took custody of Tanya Gatlin’s son immediately after his birth, Suzette Gatlin said. She has been caring for him since he was 6 months old, and currently is in the process of adopting him, she said.
“I was hoping eventually she’d grow up and want to take care of him,” she said.
After news broke Vann had been arrested, Gatlin filed a missing person report with Gary police.
Officers showed up two or three weeks later to interview her, she said. Gill Gutierrez, an investigator for the Lake County coroner’s office, showed up after that, she said.
She was disappointed Thursday when a friend of Tanya Gatlin’s – not the coroner’s office -- called her and told her Tanya Gatlin had been identified through DNA. Staff there confirmed what the friend had told her, she said.
“Even though I kind of had a feeling, you’re still just never prepared for them to tell you they’re gone,” she said.
Despite her disappointment over the notification, Gatlin credited Gutierrez with helping her get some closure.
“He’s been my rock through this whole thing,” Gatlin said.
Gutierrez always answered her calls and helped when she felt the investigation might have stalled, she said.
Scott Sefton, senior investigator for the coroner’s office, said the only information he could release was what was contained in a news release identifying Tanya Gatlin and Sonya Billingsly. He confirmed Gutierrez is a coroner’s investigator.
“Because of the great work of the Gary Police Department, our office and Indiana State Police, we were able to identify these two Jane Does,” Sefton said.
Gatlin said services for her daughter would be private.
-- Sarah Reese, Lauri Harvey Keagle and Elvia Malagon contributed to this story.