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.
by Ken Davidson
Governor Pence has authorized one time, end of year bonuses to be paid to State employees. The bonuses of up to $1,000 will be based on performance reviews to be completed in January. The Governor states that the bonuses are in lieu of pay raises and will not affect the budget. We would love to hear your opinions, is this sound fiscal policy? Sound off in the comments section.
Here is the Governor’s letter to State of Indiana employees:
Fellow State Employees,
As 2013 draws to a close, I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for your service to the people of Indiana over the past year.
Through the efforts of dedicated State Employees like you, Hoosiers continue to receive quality service and support when interacting with our state government. Indiana is strong and growing stronger due, in part, to the commitment you exhibit every day in service to the public.
Because of your efficiency and commitment to fiscal discipline, Indiana leads the way with a balanced budget, AAA credit rating and a reputation for sound fiscal management.
While our present circumstances do not permit us to increase base pay, because your service to Indiana has been exemplary, I have authorized a bonus that you will receive once performance evaluations are completed in January.
Employees who meet expectations will receive a $500 bonus, those who exceed expectations will receive $750, and those rated outstanding will receive $1,000.
I hope this news will be an encouragement to you for a job well done in 2013.
Thank you for your service to the good people of Indiana. It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve alongside men and women like you.
God bless you and your family with a memorable holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Governor Mike Pence
by Ken Davidson
Gary, Indiana saw another homicide tonight. At approximately 9:00 p.m. the Gazette began receiving reports of a homicide in the 2100 block of Georgia Street in Gary. Gary police were reportedly searching for a suspect in a late model grand prix. The Gazette is awaiting official confirmation from the office of the lake county coroner but feel confident enough to report this homicide at this time. King Carter was the first to report this incident. Others have subsequently verified it, including family members of the victim.
by Ken Davidson
New details are emerging in the December 20, 2013 killing of an Indianapolis area woman and her daughter. Marylyn Erb and Kelley M Erb were found in their Westfield, Indiana home by husband and father Thomas Erb. Marylyn Erb is originally from Lowell, Indiana.
Police arrived on the scene to find that the two women had been bludgeoned to death and their 2011 Buick Enclave had been used as the getaway vehicle. Police reports indicate that credit cards were also taken in the murder robbery and police were able to obtain video footage of an individual in a pontiac grand prix using the credit cards at various stores. The police report states:
It was determined that Chase credit cards were stolen during the home invasion and that those same credit cards were used at several locations during the afternoon hours of December 20, 2013. Video was obtained from several of these locations . . . The video shows a Pontiac Grand Prix pulling into the parking lot of the CVS.:
Police released video clips to the media and later received tips linking Christian Rene Haley to the crimes. An arrest was made and charges were filed in the matter on December 26, 2013. Police also were able to track a cell phone used by Haley to towers near the Erb home.
Those from the region who knew Marylyn Erb may leave their condolences at: http://www.legacy.com/guestbook/Batesville/guestbook.aspx?n=marylyn-erb&pid=168700621
by Ken Davidson
On October 21, Sheriff John Buncich held a press conference naming Thomas “TJ” Snow as the lead suspect in the death of beloved teacher Cliff Snow and his wife Joyce. The couple were found in their rural home on October 18, 2013 after a call for a welfare check from their out of state daughter. Officers reportedly discovered a grizzly scene upon arrival at the home. Later reports indicated that the couple were beaten and strangled but an official cause of death has yet to be announced. Thomas Snow was apprehended in Minnesota after a short police chase on October 18. Snow waived extradition to Indiana on October 22, 2013 and was transported to the Newton County Jail on December 11, 2013. Since that time, officials have been mum on details regarding the case. The Gazette has learned, however, that charges have yet to be filed in the matter. Snow has an unrelated warrant from Lake County which will hold him if he is released from Newton County. Snow would be eligible for bond on both charges absent filing of the murder charges.
The Lake County Sheriff still seeks information from anyone who may have had communication with Thomas J. Snow during the period October 4 through October 18, 2013. Anyone with such information should call the Lake County Sheriff at 219.755.3371
Yesterday evening, shortly before 7:00 PM, EST, Josh Byrd, Pike County Highway Superintendent, was placing road barriers on flooded Pike County Road 900 East, when he heard calls for help coming from out in the flood waters. He then contacted Pike County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch. The call came at 6:52 PM. The Jefferson Township Fire Department, Pike County Deputies, and Indiana Conservation Officers responded to the scene.
Conservation Officers Jon Watkins and Shane Cooper had been responding to similar flood related calls throughout the afternoon and were equipped to address this type of emergency. Arriving at the scene, they were able to launch their patrol boat from the roadway and begin a search of the flooded corn field. Christmas was found around 9:30 PM, approximately 100 yards into the flood waters, clinging onto a bridge abutment. By the time of the rescue, he had been in the flood waters about three hours.
According to the victim, Christmas was on his way home from where he worked in Otwell and decided to attempt to ride his 4-wheeler through the flooded roadway. As the water became deeper near a bridge, he decided to turn around. His vehicle began to float and got caught in the current separating Christmas from his 4-wheeler. Christmas was carried some distance with the current until he was able to latch onto some vegetation and regain his footing. Due to the darkness he was unable to find high ground. Now barefoot, he returned to the bridge, the only high point he knew.
Michael D. Christmas, 30, of Velpen Indiana. was transported to Jasper Memorial by Pike County Ambulance where he was treated for hypothermia and released.