GARY | It’s been 10 months since police found the decaying body of Teaira Batey in a vacant building in Gary.
The time period is nearly how long Batey, of Gary, had been missing before she was found inside the 1800 block of East 19th Avenue. Though the property had been boarded up following the discovery of the body, the property is now unsecured and open for anyone to wander in and explore.
In fact, the three other properties where a total of six women, including Batey, were found dead last fall are all unsecured and open. Police were led to the properties last October after Darren Vann, 44, of Gary, allegedly confessed to killing the women -- in addition to a seventh woman in Hammond.
Vann has been charged in the homicide of Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, who was found dead inside an abandoned structure in 400 block of East 43rd Ave. in Gary, according to court records. As of this week, he has not been charged in the deaths of the five other women found slain in Gary.
Vann is additionally facing a murder charge in the strangling death of Afrikka Hardy, 19, who was found dead in a Hammond motel room, according to court records.
The Lake County prosecutor's office is seeking the death penalty against him.
Some residents in the Gary neighborhoods where the six women were found think it's time to tear down the structures.
Justin James, who lives next door to the house where Batey’s body was found, said he has gotten to know Batey's boyfriend who maintains a memorial outside the abandoned building. The 28-year-old woman is memorialized with two white crosses, her photo and teddy bears.
James hasn't seen people coming in and out of the house, but he has peeked in and found covers indicating someone must be sleeping in the house.
“They need to tear it down,” Jones said. “That’s what they need to do.”
LaLosa Burns, Gary spokeswoman, said the four structures remain on the demolition list -- though they are not set for immediate demolition because of the ongoing criminal investigations.
Burns said the houses were boarded up, but said police access the property.
It's unclear how long the houses had been vacant when the women were found. All four properties are delinquent more than $51,000 in taxes, according to county records. The four properties are up for sale at the next county tax sale in September.
The house were Batey was found is now owned by Gary Redevelopment Commission, according to county records.
The abandoned home at 2200 Massachusetts St., where the body of Tracy L. Martin, 41, of Gary, was discovered was last owned by For Women Only nonprofit. It wanted to turn the house into a shelter for homeless families, but stumbled on financial hurdles before making it a reality.
Neighborhood residents did not want to comment for this story. The front of the house remains boarded up with blue graffiti stating, "RIP Baby Cakes."
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The back of the house remains wide open to Broadway. Inside, paint is chipping off the walls, a couch and chair sit in a disheveled room and a tree branch is growing into the house from a partially boarded-up window.
About 3 miles away, Barbara Gibson lives down the street from the house at 4330 Massachusetts St., where Kristine Williams, 36, of Gary, was found dead. Gibson recalls seeing Williams walking around the neighborhood listening to music.
The house has a religious candle along with tea candles on its front porch. A padlock secures the front door, and bars on windows prevent anyone from going inside. However, the backyard fence is knocked down and a backdoor is open.
For Gibson, knocking down the house is the start of what she thinks the city should do in the neighborhood. Her property is sandwiched between an abandoned house and a vacant lot. She points to another abandoned home across the street nearly covered by overgrowth.
"I'm tired of looking at that house," she said. "I don't know what's hiding in that house," saying it needs to be razed.
She also thinks the city should maintain the vacant lots by mowing the grass, something she has sometimes done to maintain the property around her own house, she said.
400 block of East 43rd Ave.
Like Batey, Jones had also been reported missing before she was found dead. Vann allegedly led officers late Oct. 18, 2014, to the 400 block of East 43rd Ave. in Gary, where Jones was found in a vacant home’s basement covered with teddy bears and tires, according to court records.
Vann told officers he was paid to make Jones disappear because of an upcoming court hearing, according to the affidavit. He allegedly killed her in a vacant building in Merrillville, and moved her body to the Gary property, according to court records.
The bodies of Tanya Gatlin, 27, of Gary, and Sonya Billingsley, 53, of Gary, also were found in a second structure in the same property, police previously said.
The house is boarded up in the front and is nearly covered with overgrown grass. In the rear, a door is wide open, and a second structure on the property is also unsecured.
Charmaine Blanchard, who lives around the corner, thinks the city should tear down all the abandoned structures in the neighborhood.
"It's too dangerous like this," Blanchard said. "There's no security whatsoever like this."
A lifelong Gary resident, Blanchard is often "scared as hell" just to walk to her car when she has to go to work, she said. She counts on a neighbor across the street to keep an eye out on her home.
Like Gibson, Blanchard finds herself cutting the grass of a vacant property next to her house, but she too thinks the city should keep up with maintenance of similar properties.
"I just wish (the abandoned houses) would be gone," Blanchard said. "That's the only way this community is going to get better."