Seven women have been found dead this week in northwestern Indiana, one in a motel and six in abandoned houses in Gary.
Darren Vann, 43, was charged Monday in the death of the woman whose body was found Friday at a Motel 6 in Hammond, 20 miles southeast of Chicago. Police say Vann has confessed to all seven killings and hinted that there could be more, stretching back two decades.
Family and friends of three victims reached by The Associated Press on Tuesday remembered the women as caring, loving family members who will be missed.
Jones was a fixture in Natasha Conway’s life for 25 years.
She was the little girl who wanted to play when Conway moved to a new neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side at 9. She was the teenager who promised to carry on the tradition of baking Betty Boop birthday cakes after Conway buried her father at 18. She was the woman who snuck a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich into the hospital room after Conway gave birth to her second child at 25.
So when Jones went missing in early October, Conway, 34, noticed.
“They say you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” Conway said. “I knew what I had in a friend.”
As young women, Conway and Jones visited Memphis, St. Louis and Detroit. They shared a love of Chicago’s reggae clubs. They got tattoos together.
“She just wanted to travel and enjoy life,” Conway said.
Apart from her dog, Buzz, and cat, Chuck, Jones, 35, had no children. Instead, she was godmother to her friends’ children, including Conway’s son and daughter.
One of several siblings, Jones was also the “favorite aunt to every last one of her nieces and nephews,” Conway said.
Jones moved to northwest Indiana from Detroit between 10 and 12 years ago, Conway said. Her most recent apartment was in Merrillville, but she sold men’s clothing at a market in Gary.
Conway said Jones hoped the stand would be a gateway to a store of her own.
“She had big dreams,” Conway said.
Batey was the proud mother of a 2-year-old son who didn’t wait for her longtime boyfriend to propose.
“We were sitting at home having dinner. … And she said, ‘You know what? I want to get married and have more kids one day,'” Marvin Clinton said. “She said, ‘Are you interested?'”
The 45-year-old Clinton accepted that proposal two years ago and the two were working on wedding plans when she went missing last January. Clinton said he loved her because she was sweet and beautiful.
“She wanted to get married, raise our son together and just live a prosperous, happy life,” he said.
Batey also had struggles. She was bipolar and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression. Clinton said he knew the 28-year-old Batey had been a prostitute “back in the day” but said she hadn’t been involved in that for at least three years.
Her mother, Gloria Cullom, described her daughter as trusting and vulnerable. She was born in Chicago and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, when she was about 4, then moved to Gary in 2004.
Cullom said Batey also had two daughters, ages 8 and 7, who were taken from her by the state and put up for adoption. Cullom thought the state was wrong to take her granddaughters but was pleased Batey had found happiness with Clinton.
Clinton and Cullom said they thought Gary police should have done more to look for Batey. Clinton said he’s frustrated that Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the only missing person report the city had received was for Jones, because he and Cullom filed one for Batey.
At age 19, Hardy was trying to figure out what she wanted to be.
She wanted to be a nurse. She wanted to be a singer. She wanted to be music engineer. Mainly, she wanted to be an independent adult.
“She had so much potential,” said her mother, Lori Townsend. “She could write you a poem in a matter of seconds, and it was original and from the heart. She wrote short stories. … She could sing. Her mind was a sponge. She absorbed everything.”
Townsend said Hardy went through a lot, growing up in poverty and with a father in prison. The family lived in Chicago before moving to Aurora, Colorado, more than five years ago. Hardy decided to leave home in June and move to Gary.
“She was 19. She didn’t want to be under mom’s wings anymore,” she said.
Despite that, the two talked nearly every day, even if it was only to say “I love you,” she said.
Townsend said her daughter was trying to get a job and support herself and “fell into a trap” when she apparently turned to sex work.
Police say the discovery of Hardy’s body at the Motel 6, where they say she went as a prostitute, led to police arresting Vann and uncovering the other bodies.
Townsend said her daughter died “as a hero in a sense” and said of the prostitution allegations that: “People don’t understand people’s circumstances. That wasn’t who my daughter was.”
Hardy’s biggest fault might have been that she was too trusting, Townsend said.
“She didn’t believe the world is as ugly as it is,” she said. “Unfortunately, she succumbed to the hands of ugliness.”