Se­rial killer pleads guilty; con­vic­tion in cop killing case

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Becky Ja­cobs Post-Tri­bune

A se­rial killer’s guilty plea closed Lake County’s last death penalty case of 2018 in the deaths of seven women left scat­tered in aban­doned build­ings in Gary.

As his trial loomed in the fall, at­tor­neys pre­pared to try Dar­ren Vann, 47, in the 2014 killings of Afrikka Hardy, 19, of Chicago; Anith Jones, 35, of Mer­ril­lville; Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary; Tracy Mar­tin, 41, of Gary; Kris­tine Williams, 36, of Gary; Sonya Billings­ley, 52, of Gary; and Tanya Gatlin, 2 7, of High­land.

But in May, at­tor­neys an­nounced a plea agree­ment in the case and Vann pleaded guilty to seven counts of mur­der. Rather than po­ten­tially fac­ing the death penalty, Vann was sen­tenced to life in prison with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

Marvin Clin­ton, Batey’s fi­ance, sat through nearly four years of hear­ings as the case pro­gressed. With Vann’s sen­tenc­ing, Clin­ton said he and the fam­i­lies of the other women who were killed stayed in touch over the years un­til they had some some clo­sure.

“He had no right to play God on none of these women,” Clin­ton, who has a son with Batey, said at the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing May 25.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Vann be­gan af­ter Hardy’s body was found in the bath­tub of a Mo­tel 6 in Ham­mond on Oct. 17, 2014. Vann then led in­ves­ti­ga­tors to bod­ies of the other six women he left in aban­doned houses in Gary.

Since Batey died, Clin­ton has tended a me­mo­rial of crosses and teddy bears out­side the house where Batey’s skele­tal re­mains were found on East 19th Av­enue.

“He don’t have a heart. He don’t have a soul,” Clin­ton said about Vann.

Vann chose not to at­tend his sen­tenc­ing. He waived his ap­pear­ances at many of his hear­ings, send­ing his de­fense team in his place. At a hear­ing last year, Vann was was held in con­tempt of court af­ter an out­burst, telling pros­e­cu­tors, “Don’t say some­thing you can’t back up. You say you’re gonna give me death. Go ahead and kill me, (ex­ple­tive).”

Lake County Pros­e­cu­tor Bernard Carter said, “Dar­ren Vann, by all ac­counts, is an evil, psy­chotic, se­rial preda­tor.”

The plea deal for Vann was ne­go­ti­ated up un­til the fi­nal mo­ments with late night phone calls and text mes­sages to iron out the de­tails, at­tor­neys said. Even the day of the hear­ing, pros­e­cu­tors and the women’s fam­i­lies said they weren’t sure Vann was go­ing to go through with it un­til they heard the words come out of his mouth.

As part of Vann’s plea deal, pros­e­cu­tors agreed “to re­frain from fil­ing any ad­di­tional charges in Lake County” against him “un­less it is a charge re­lated to a homi­cide,” but in that pos­si­bil­ity “the state will re­frain from fil­ing the death penalty,” ac­cord­ing to the deal.

The de­fense, pros­e­cu­tors and the women’s fam­i­lies said, though, what helped lead to the agree­ment they all could agree to was the idea of hav­ing fi­nal­ity in the case.

Wil­liam Landske

Later in the year, lawyers and com­mu­nity mem­bers were shocked when long­time at­tor­ney T. E d - ward Page, 64, was fa­tally shot Aug. 15 out­side his Ho­bart home.

Wil­liam Landske, Page’s friend and client, had gone to the house to col­lect tax doc­u­ments, po­lice said. Page pre­pared tax re­turns for Landske, 83, and his late wife, for­mer state Sen. Dorothy “Sue” Landske, for decades, court records show.

Landske asked Page whether the two could talk, po­lice said. Landske re­port­edly put his arm around Page, pulled a sil­ver re­volver out of his pocket and shot Page in the stom­ach, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Landske told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was “dis­sat­is­fied with how Judge Page wasn’t han­dling his tax af­fairs in a timely mat­ter,” and when he saw the bags of doc­u­ments in Page’s house that day, “that’s when I went over the deep end,” court records show.

Roughly 200 mourn­ers gath­ered at McClel­land Ma­sonic Lodge in Ho­bart to re­mem­ber Page af­ter his death. Landske was charged days later with Page’s mur­der.

A spe­cial judge, Ben­ton County Cir­cuit Judge Rex W. Kepner, was ap­pointed to pre­side in the case of Landske, a for­mer Cedar Lake Town Coun­cil mem­ber. Landske is sched­uled for trial in May, court records show.

James Hill

James Hill, 55, went to trial in Au­gust in the decades-old slay­ing of an off­duty Ham­mond po­lice of­fi­cer, Lawrence Pu­ca­lik.

Pu­ca­lik was work­ing a side se­cu­rity job Nov. 14, 1980, at a Hol­i­day Inn in Ham­mond when two men with hand­guns came in and de­manded money from the regis­ter, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Pu­ca­lik walked into the lobby, and as he at­tempted to ac­cess his firearm, he was shot by one of the sus­pects, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Hill was sen­tenced in Oc­to­ber to 47 years in prison af­ter pros­e­cu­tors said he was the get­away driver for the other two men who went in­side. But Hill has main­tained his in­no­cence, ask­ing for a new trial, which a judge re­jected.

Hill’s co-de­fen­dant Pierre Catlett was brought brought back to In­di­ana to face charges in Pu­ca­lik’s death af­ter serv­ing a lengthy Illi­nois prison sen­tence. Catlett, 68, pleaded not guilty and is sched­uled to ap­pear in court again in Jan­uary.

The third co-de­fen­dant, Larry Mayes, 69, was found incompetent to stand trial af­ter he had a stroke.

Kelly Cochran

In Fe­bru­ary, Kelly Cochran, 36, was re­turned to In­di­ana to face charges in her husb a n d ’s death that she had ini­tially c l a i me d was a suic i d e. When she re­turned to Lake County, Cochran was al­ready serv­ing a life sen­tence in Michi­gan with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role for the mur­der of her boyfriend, Christo­pher Re­gan, in 2014.

Cochran claimed she mur­dered her hus­band, Ja­son Cochran, 37, as re­venge for killing Re­gan, by giv­ing Ja­son Cochran a fa­tal over­dose of heroin Feb. 20, 2016, in Ho­bart and put her hands on his neck, nose and mouth un­til he died.

Kelly Cochran struck a plea deal in Lake County in her hus­band’s death and was sen­tenced in May to 65 years in prison.

“I will die in prison. I’ve ac­cepted that fate,” Cochran said at her sen­tenc­ing hear­ing.

Kevin Camp­bell

In Porter County, Kevin Camp­bell, a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer in Ham­mond and Gary, was sen­tenced in April to 55 years in prison for the mur­der of Tiara Thomas, the mother of three of his chil­dren.

Thomas, 30, was found shot Nov. 18, 2015, in the bed­room of her Portage apart­ment she shared with her fi­ance, Mar­qtell Rob- in­son.

At his sen­tenc­ing, Camp­bell, 34, claimed he was in­no­cent. But his ap­peal was later de­nied.

Camp­bell’s trial in Val­paraiso be­came emo­tional as he and his old­est son with Thomas each took the stand.

From his chil­dren, Camp­bell learned Robin­son’s work sched­ule and got a key to the apart­ment to get in when Thomas was alone, pros­e­cu­tors said, and used tak­ing his chil­dren to school as an al­ibi when he shot Thomas while she slept.

Camp­bell was “drown­ing fi­nan­cially” in the months lead­ing up to Thomas’ death, pros­e­cu­tors said, with his car re­pos­sessed, calls from bill col­lec­tors and in­creased child sup­port pay­ments to Thomas. Pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued this spoke to his mo­tive.

Guy Mikulich

In Lake County, Guy Mikulich, 39, pleaded guilty but men­tally ill in May from a 2016 hit-and-run crash at the Gary Air Show that in­jured a man. He re­ceived no jail time as part of his plea agree­ment.

Mikulich, a mem­ber of the Lake County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment, was in uni­form when he struck Der­rick Dir­cks, of Frank­fort Square, Ill., with his coun­tyis­sued un­marked Ford Crown Vic­to­ria and fled the scene on July 10, 2016, af­ter Mikulich had worked se­cu­rity at the air show. Dir­cks was pack­ing up his mini­van on Oak Av­enue with his fam­ily when he was struck, the deal states.

Mau­reen Dir­cks, Der­rick Dir­cks’ wife, de­scribed how the in­ci­dent im­pacted her fam­ily at Mikulich’s dis­ci­plinary hear­ings and in his crim­i­nal case.

“My chil­dren watched in hor­ror as their fa­ther laid un­con­scious on the ground, think­ing he was dead,” she said.

Mikulich apol­o­gized to the fam­ily at his sen­tenc­ing, telling them, “I’m so, so sorry. The only thing that I want is your for­give­ness.”

Sherquell Magee

In East Chicago, David An­der­son, 11, was fa­tally shot May 5 while stand­ing in a gazebo at Nunez Park, where he had been play­ing bas­ket­ball that day. A fight broke out be­tween two groups of ju­ve­niles, and An­der­son was struck in the head when one of them pulled out a gun, court records show.

LaTanya An­der­son said her son was a “straight-A stu­dent” who was on the honor roll at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton El­e­men­tary School.

“He didn’t want to do a ny t h i n g exc e p t p l ay bas­ket­ball and eat noo­dles,” she said.

Sherquell Magee, 17, was charged with An­der­son’s mur­der and was de­nied bail in Novem­ber af­ter a hear­ing where at­tor­neys played sur­veil­lance video of the shoot­ing.

Der­rick Car­dosi

Der­rick Car­dosi, 26, is sched­uled to make his ap­peal be­fore the In­di­ana Supreme Court Ja n . 10 from a 2016 triple homi­cide in New­ton County.

Car­dosi ap­pealed af­ter a jury con­victed him in Fe­bru­ary in the Aug. 28, 2016, stab­bings of Justine Lee Babbs, 20, Richard Thomas, 23, and Kim­ber­ley Sparks, 29, in Su­mava Re­sorts. Car­dosi was sen­tenced to life in prison with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

Pros­e­cu­tors said that Car­dosi and his co-de­fen­dant, Se­bas­tian Wed­ding, had planned to rob Thomas of drugs and money.

Wed­ding, 26, was sen­tenced last year to 55 years in prison af­ter strik­ing a plea agree­ment.

KYLE TELECHAN/POST-TRI­BUNE

Marvin Clin­ton stands near a me­mo­rial he built in front of the Gary home where the body of his fi­ance, Teaira Batey, was found in 2014.

BECKY JA­COBS/POST-TRI­BUNE

Mourn­ers gath­ered in May for a vigil af­ter David An­der­son, 11, was fa­tally shot at an East Chicago park.

Cochran

Landske

Car­dosi

Vann

Camp­bell

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