CROWN POINT | A Gary man suspected of killing seven women will stand trial this summer.
Wearing a striped Lake County Jail uniform, Darren Vann appeared in court Friday for an omnibus hearing. Lake County Criminal Judge Diane Boswell set a trial date for June 22 during the brief hearing.
Vann, 43, faces murder charges in the strangling deaths of Afrikka Hardy, 19, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, according to court records. Vann allegedly confessed the women along with five other women who were found in October in vacant properties in Gary, police previously said.
He has not been charged in the deaths of the five other women. The other women are Teaira Batey, Tanya Gatlin, Sonya Billingsley, Tracy L. Martin and Kristine Williams.
In December, Vann waived his right to appear in future court hearings. Surrounded by two officers and his attorney, Vann smiled frequently throughout the hearing but remained silent.
A man seated in the gallery was warned by an officer he would be kicked out after he pointed to Vann and mumbled something.
Vann was arrested last fall after Hammond officers found Hardy's body Oct. 17 at a Hammond Motel 6. According to court records, Vann and Hardy arranged to meet through an online escort service.
While being questioned by detectives, Vann led them to the bodies of six women he allegedly confessed to killing and leaving in abandoned homes, police said.
One of the women was Jones, who had been reported missing in early October. She was found dead in an abandoned house in the 400 block of East 43rd Street in Gary.
Vann told detectives a mutual friend offered him $500 in cash and drugs to make Jones disappear because of an upcoming legal matter, according to the affidavit. He met Jones in a Merrillville home where they had sex, and he then strangled her to death, according to court records.
The two murder charges against Vann are currently filed as separate court cases. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Jatkiewicz said the state filed a motion for joinder, which would combine the criminal cases.
Boswell set an April 17 hearing to rule on the issue because defense attorney Teresa Hollandsworth said she had not received a copy of the state's motion.
Vann's cases, including the state's motion, were not publicly available at the Lake County clerk's office just before the office closed Friday because the documents were still in the judge's chambers.
Hollandsworth said she also did not get a copy of a sealed search warrant issued in the case earlier this week. Jatkiewicz said in court the search warrant was sealed because it contained sensitive information about Vann.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter previously said at another court hearing his office was looking into Vann's background as they mull seeking the death penalty. His office had not filed documents seeking the capital punishment against Vann as of this week.
Boswell also scheduled a pretrial conference in the case for May 22.