HAMMOND, Ind. (TheBlaze/AP) -- A man suspected in the deaths of seven women in northwestern Indiana has been charged in one of the slayings. The suspect is now being considered a potential serial killer and could have victims going as far back as 20 years, officials said.
The Lake County prosecutor's office on Monday charged 43-year-old Darren Vann of nearby Gary, Indiana, in the strangulation death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy. Police say her body was found Friday night at a Motel 6 in Hammond.
The Lake County coroner's office said she was strangled.
This undated photo provided by the Lake County Sheriff's Department shows Darren Vann. Police say Vann, a suspect in the slayings of seven women whose bodies were found in northwestern Indiana over the weekend, is a former Texas resident who now lives in Gary. Hammond Police Chief John Doughty says Vann will be charged Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in the slaying of a woman whose body was found Friday at a Motel 6 in Hammond. (AP Photo/Lake County Sheriff's Department)
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty says Hardy was involved in prostitution and had arranged to meet Vann at the motel through a Chicago-area website.
Hardy's mother, Lori Townsend, told the Associated Press that police told her that Vann requested a sex act and "when [Hardy] said 'no' and put up a fight, he snapped and strangled her."
"This man is sick," the mother added.
Vann reportedly confessed to killing Hardy, which ultimately led police officers to discover six more bodies hidden in abandoned homes in Gary. Police took Vann into custody Saturday afternoon. Even more disturbing, there could be even more bodies that have yet to be found.
"It could go back as far as 20 years based on some statements we have, but that has yet to be corroborated," Doughty said.
Doughty said police have no specific indication that any slayings have occurred in another state, and the Gary slayings appeared to have happened recently. He said Vann is cooperating with investigators in the hope of making a deal with prosecutors.
One of the homes in which a body was found is seen Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, at 4330 Massachusetts St. in Gary, Ind. The bodies of seven women have been found in northwestern Indiana after a man confessed to killing one woman who was found strangled at a motel and led investigators to at least three of the bodies, authorities said Monday. The Lake County coroner's office said three of the bodies were found Sunday night at two locations in Gary, while the other four bodies were found earlier over the weekend. (AP Photo/The Times, John J. Watkins)
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty speaks at a news conference Monday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Hammond, Ind. Police investigating the slayings of seven women whose bodies were found over the weekend in northwestern Indiana say the suspect has told them that he may have killed people going back 20 years. Chief Doughty says Darren Vann will be charged Monday in the slaying of a woman whose body was found Friday at a Motel 6 in Hammond. Police say Vann provided information that led authorities to the bodies of six other women in abandoned homes in the nearby city of Gary, Indiana. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Vann is currently registered as a sex offender in Texas, but was listed as representing a "low" risk by the Texas Department of Public Safety. He did not register as a sex offender in Illinois.
They found the body of 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville, Indiana, on Saturday night in an abandoned home. She had been missing since Oct. 8.
Five more bodies were found Sunday in other homes, said Doughty, who identified two of the women as Gary residents Teaira Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36. Police have not determined the identities of the other three women, including two whose bodies were found on the same block where Jones' body was found on Saturday.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said only Jones was reported missing, perhaps indicating that Vann "preyed on individuals that might be less likely to be reported missing."
Gary officials are expected to bring additional charges against Vann later this week.
This story has been updated.