According to sources close to the investigation, Abandoned House Strangler Darren Vann has made some fantastic accusations. Among them, that there are bodies which were in the Sheraton Hotel before demolition began. When asked if the claim was credible, the source replied “everything he has told us so far is true . . . .but” indicating that this claim may be too outrageous to believe, yet too credible to summarily dismiss. The Sheraton Hotel, next to City Hall, has been vacant for nearly 20 years. It was billed as a surefire means of revitalizing downtown Gary by then Mayor Richard Hatcher in 1968 and reopened briefly in 1985. Demolition work began on the structure in July of this year.
It is clear that Vann has a sick vendetta against the City of Gary. Among other revelations, Vann detailed a plan to blow up the Gary Police Station. The source had no details as to whether there was any evidence that he took any steps toward completion of that plan. It is possible that he is saying there are bodies in the Sheraton rubble as one last chance to attack the City of Gary. Work continued on the Sheraton Hotel today.
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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.