When Lori Townsend learned from detectives that her daughter had worked as an escort, she felt sad knowing this description of her daughter would become public after the arrest of murder suspect Darren Deon Vann.
Townsend described her daughter, Afrikka Hardy, 19, as “a beautiful, intelligent young lady” with a promising future. She was unsure why Hardy would have felt the need to make money as an escort, as police said she did.
“My heart breaks,” Townsend said in an interview Monday from her home in Denver. “They go into it thinking, ‘Oh, I am going to make a quick dollar,’ not realizing that one of those men could be this man that will kill you.”
As police in northwest Indiana continued to investigate the 43-year-old Vann — a convicted sex offender who has been charged with Hardy’s killing and is a suspect in six more deaths of women — sometimes painful details began to emerge about the women the authorities have identified as potential victims.
Along with Hardy, whose body was found strangled in a Hammond, Ind., motel room, a second woman authorities identified as one of Vann’s potential victims was described by family members as kind-hearted but vulnerable.
Teaira Batey, 28, who was born in Chicago and raised in St. Paul, had recently spent time in jail for a felony drug conviction, court records showed. Her body was found with two others in an abandoned home in Gary, Ind.
Hardy came to Chicago over the summer after growing up in Aurora, Colo., her mother said. She planned to enroll in college and hoped to become a sound or music engineer. She liked to sing and write short stories and poetry, family members said.
“The sky was the limit with her,” Omarr Peterson, who identified himself as Hardy’s father, said outside a relative’s home in Chicago. “Loving. Bright. Afrikka was Afrikka. Just like every other teenager. It’s never a dull moment.”
Batey went missing from her Gary home in mid-January, her family said. It became clear she was in trouble when she failed to show up for a birthday party she had helped plan for her 2-year-old son at a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in late January, according to Marvin Clinton, her boyfriend and the father of her son.
“Only thing he knows is that mommy’s been missing since January,” Clinton said.
Batey was a kind-hearted and giving woman who lived a troubled life, family members said. She had used drugs in the past, according to Clinton and her mother, Gloria Cullom, of St. Paul. But they both said they thought she was clean around the time she disappeared.
Batey had been living in Gary for about the last decade, Cullom said. She was loving but trusting to a fault, said Cullom, who reported her daughter missing.
“She was very vulnerable. She would stick to anybody,” her mother said. “She had a good heart.”
Batey was arrested by Gary police in 2010 and charged with felony cocaine dealing, according to Indiana court records. She was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty, the court records show.
Clinton said he suspected Batey of working as a prostitute and even confronted her about it, though she denied it. Though she was never charged with that crime in Lake County, Ind., records relating to trial preparations in her drug case include an entry indicating prosecutors had “instructed . witnesses not to mention in front of the jury anything about any ties of (Batey) to prostitution.”
Both Clinton and Cullom said they would be relieved if Batey’s killer has been caught.
“We’re grateful that (the suspect) started talking because if he didn’t start talking right now, today, we wouldn’t know where Teaira was,” Clinton said.
Cullom said, “I feel for all the mothers that done lost their child through this.”