The Abandoned House Strangler has been identified by Hammond police as 43 year old Darren Vann of Gary. Vann is a registered sex offender who is current on his registration according to records maintained by Lake County Sheriff John Buncich. Vann was arrested on Saturday in connection with the murder of 19 year old Afrika Hardy. Charges were filed this afternoon for the Murder of 19 year old Afrika Hardy from Aurora, Illinois.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, Vann arranged a meeting with Hardy utilizing the site backpage.com. Hardy did not make the arranged meeting on Thursday night. On Friday at 5:30 pm Vann, who went by the screen name “Big Boy Appetite” on backpage.com, showed up at Motel 6 unannounced. After the “normal time” for such a meeting passed, Shameeka Cunningham and Eduardo Ayon, who helped to arrange meetings for Hardy, became concerned about Hardy’s welfare. The pair travelled to Motel 6 and found Afrika Hardy’s lifeless body in the bathtub.
Shameeka Cunningham dialed 9-1-1 and summoned police and ambulance personnel to the scene according to the affidavit. Upon arrival police found that “the beds were moved away from the headboards to suggest that there was possibly a struggle there.” A condom wrapper, a light colored shirt button and a fingernail were also found according to the report. Afrika Hardy had red marks on her neck, suggesting that “she had been strangled with something thin.” The coroner was called and the cause of death was determined to be strangulation. The manner of death was determined to be homicide.
During the interviews with Cunningham and Ayon, police were able to obtain information regarding a cell phone that had been utilized by “Big Boy Appetite” to arrange the meeting. Police supboenaed cellular phone records for the telephone and were led to a location in the 600 block of W. 49th Avenue in Gary according to the affidavit. Police then obtained a search warrant for that residence on October 18 and arrested Darren Deon Vann. A blue Jeep was towed and a search warrant was obtained for that vehicle. During the search, police discovered a shirt which was missing a button, an HTC cellular telephone in a pink case which matched the description of that owned by Afrika Hardy, and condoms of the same brand and type as the wrapper found in the motel room.
The affidavit states that Darren Deon Vann confessed to strangling Afrika Hardy with a cord when confronted with the evidence.
Hammond Fire officials were dispatched the the scene of a vehicle fire involving a Prompt Ambulance transport on Saturday night. There were no injuries and another ambulance was dispatched and the transport was completed without incident, according to Jerry Miller, Director of Operations for Prompt Ambulance.. The incident occurred at approximately 10:45 pm on Saturday night on the Indiana Toll Road in Hammond.
Miller stated that ambulance fires are very rare and that Prompt Ambulance has only experienced one other fire in Company history. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
A glance at the Facebook page shows Mayor McDermott’s brothers, staff and Hammond Police officers partying it up at Hammond’s Aquavor. Janet Venecz, a McDermott appointee, has introduced a resolution which Aquavor staff say is designed to close the club.
Mayor’s Brother and Hammond Realtor Aaron McDermott
Philip Taillon Executive Director of Planning and Development at City of Hammond hangs out with the Aquavor gang before they became persona non grata in Hammond. For full story, click here http://wp.me/p3IAXO-5L
Brett McDermott and Aaron McDermott, Mayor’s brothers and principals in Lattitude Realty.
Members of the HPD celebrate Halloween at Aquavor.
July 22, 2013: One nightclub is fighting the City for its survival as the Hammond City Council gave $3.5 Million to a brewpub to open. Aquavor Nightclub remains open for business but the City has already placed No Parking after 11 PM signs all around the business.
The Hammond City Council gave final approval tonight to a Development Agreement with Hammond Station Restaurant and Brewery tonight. Although the agreement was not available for review at the meeting, council members have previously stated that the Brewery would receive $3.5 Million to assist in construction of the estimated $10M facility. Council Member Janet Venecz praised the Flossmoor location operated by the same company. She stated she had visited the area around Christmas and was very impressed by the area. Other councilman sang the praises of the proposed development, indicating it would be a jump start for development in the area.
Councilman Higgs was the sole member to question the project, although he ultimately voted in favor of it. Higgs questioned why other areas of the City were not being developed, including the Woodmar Mall area. Higgs also expressed concern over the plan by the developers to address hiring of minorities. Construction is expected to begin as early as September.
There was no discussion as to how this subsidy to a restaurant/bar would affect struggling businesses in Hammond. A copy of the development plan should be available for review by tomorrow and the Gazette will update this story at that time.
In other action, the City Council delayed action on a proposed ordinance that would ban parking in City lots after 11:00 p.m. Despite this, signs have already been placed in the parking lots near downtown Hammond’s Aquavor Nightclub. Club managers were present at the meeting but left when they saw the ordinance was not on the agenda. They have repeatedly stated that this would close the nightclub which was once popular with City staff and politically connected individuals. Aquavor remains open at this time. You can find them on Facebook or at
The City Council held off on an ordinance prohibiting parking in City lots after 11:00 pm but signs have already been placed in all lots near Aquavor Night Club.
The Federal Government may be monitoring your telephone conversations but in Northwest Indiana criminals can feel confident that their communications are secure. Indiana issued just 3 wiretap warrants in 2012. All of the warrants were issued in Marion County. No wiretaps were requested in Lake, Porter, or LaPorte Counties. No data was reported for the Northern District of Indiana which would lead the reader to assume either an error in the report or that no warrants were requested. State, Local and Federal officials are required by Federal Law to report all requests for wiretap warrants to the Administrative Office of the Federal Courts each year.
Indiana has a stricter law than most states for portable electronic monitoring requiring the chief law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction (sheriff, chief of police, or Superintendent of State Police) together with the Prosecuting Attorney of a county to verify the facts of the warrant under oath. Only the Indiana State Police can install the monitoring equipment required for a wiretap warrant. (IC 35-33.5-2).
In total 3,395 local, state and federal wiretap warrants were issued in 2012, the US Office of The Admistrative Courts Reports. The vast majority of those were issued for mobile devices in drug investigations. The numbers vary greatly b state with the feds, California and New York requesting the vast majority-over 2500.
Source: Administrative Office of the Federal Courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/Statistics/WiretapReports/2012/Table1.pdf
Smokey Robinson brought the fans to Festival of the Lakes today despite high temperatures. Nonetheless, crowds were sparse in other areas of the festival. Whether security concerns or the high cost of parking kept families away, one Festival worker reported that she never saw a line at a single ride. Parking was still available in the main lots at 8:00 pm as the concert began. Many families were walking to avoid the $15 parking fee. Several neighborhood businesses offered $10 parking.
If you attended the Festival of the Lakes last night, we would love to hear your comments.
Crowds were sparse at showtime for Smokey Robinson
Concerns over security cloud the opening day of the Hammond’s Festival of the Lakes after two events involving explosives in the Region. The Hammond Festival features headliner Smokey Robinson on July 17. Robinson is a music legend with hits such as Tracks of My Tears and My Girl and admission is free for all. Local pop icon Nicole Jamrose will open for Robinson. Other national acts to appear at the festival include Lifehouse, Better Than Ezra and LL Cool J.
The festival also features rides, a beer garden, and the Kathleen Pucalik Memorial 5K run and walk.