- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) - A judge on Wednesday formally informed a Gary man charged with murder in the deaths of two women and suspected of killing five others that he could face the death penalty.

Darren Vann, 44, told Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Boswell that he understood the cases involving the deaths of Afrikka Hardy and Anith Jones had been joined and that he could be sentenced to die if he’s convicted, The Times of Munster reported (https://bit.ly/1FPzZcL ).

Police have said that Vann confessed to having killed seven women whose remains were found over three days in October. He has only been charged in the deaths of Hardy and Jones, though.

The court last year issued a gag order prohibiting officials from commenting on the case, and Boswell on Wednesday granted the state’s request to prevent the coroner’s office from releasing the women’s autopsy reports. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Jatkiewicz said the motion was in response to Freedom of Information requests for information from the reports. The defense agreed with the state’s non-disclosure motion for the autopsy reports.

During a previous hearing, Hollandsworth said Vann asked prosecutor Bernard Carter in the letter if the state was going to seek the death penalty against him. On Wednesday, Boswell granted the state’s request for a handwriting sample to determine if Vann wrote the letter. Jatkiewicz said the state was seeking the sample as a precaution.

Defense attorney Teresa Hollandsworth said Vann didn’t deny writing the letter and would file a stipulated agreement stating that. However, she objected to her client having to submit a handwriting sample.

Boswell also vacated the June 22 trial date she set earlier because Vann now faces the death penalty. She said she would set a new trial date at a hearing on May 22.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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