Nearly a week after launching an investigation into possible serial killings of women around Gary, Indiana, the city’s police chief says he plans to look into a 2010 report by Scripps News about an unusual number of unsolved strangulations of women in the area between 1991 and 2007.
Chief Larry McKinley took office in July and said he had no idea what happened four years ago when Scripps reporters, as part of a major investigation into unsolved murders across the nation, sent a letter to his department and a list of 15 unsolved strangulations of women, most of whom died in his city. At the time, former Chief Gary Carter and his investigators did not respond to numerous letters, faxes and phone calls over three months requesting interviews to discuss the cases.
On Thursday, McKinley said he planned to review the information and see if any of the cold cases may be connected to Darren Deon Vann, who is currently under investigation in the deaths of at least seven women.
“I can properly assure you had that call come to me or to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, there would have been an active investigation looking into this,” McKinley said in an interview Thursday. McKinley said he learned of the letter this week, but had not yet read it and did not know how many unsolved strangulations of women remained on the books.
“We are in the process of going through that,” said McKinley. “I’ve dedicated our detectives so that we can go through what we need to have.”
Vann, 43, was arrested after the strangled body of 19-year-old Affrika Hardy was found at a Motel 6 in the neighboring city of Hammond. After interviewing Vann, police found six more bodies in abandoned buildings around Gary and said he might be linked to other deaths as far back as the 1990s.
The rate at which Gary was solving murders dropped alarmingly in the early 1990s, the same time there was a spike in unsolved strangulations of women. The city told the FBI it had solved just four of the 65 murders committed in 1990. The last year Gary reported murder clearance was 1994, when it solved just one of its 80 reported killings. It hasn’t reported a clearance since.
McKinley said he plans to resume the reports.
“I think that’s something that the public needs to know. And if it’s something for the FBI records, we will most definitely make sure that information is made available,” McKinley said. He said the city currently clears “about half” of its murders.
The rate at which U.S. cities solve murder cases has been declining in recent years, despite advances in DNA technology and other forensic techniques. In 2012, according to the FBI, about 62.5 percent of all murders were cleared through arrest, down from 90 percent reported in 1965.
McKinley said no rape kits or other DNA evidence in the department have been untested and cross-checks of the results against other homicides revealed no evidence of serial killings.