Serial killer suspect got 5 years prison in plea deal

Darren Vann

By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

An Austin man who has confessed to the murder of at least seven Indiana women, according to police, had been arrested and convicted for sexually assaulting a Texas woman in 2008.

However, Darren Vann served just five years in prison after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office agreed to a plea deal with Vann.

Vann was classified as a “low risk” offender when he was released from state prison in July 2013, despite the fact that his victim testified he had strangled her.

Strangulation is considered a red flag for eventual homicide both by law enforcement and by academics, who have established it as “an important risk factor” for homicides against women.

Vann was initially charged with aggravated sexual assault, a first-degree felony carrying a penalty of five to 99 years in prison. He was accused of oral and vaginal penetration, strangulation and making death threats, each of those fitting the crime’s definition. Yet Lehmberg’s office allowed Vann to plea to a second-degree felony, sexual assault, which resulted in the five-year sentence.

The Austin Police Department announced Mondaythat it would review cold homicide cases after reports that Vann told police in Gary, Indiana, that his crimes stretch back 20 years. Vann reportedly has moved back and forth between Indiana and Austin. Vann’s case generated nationwide coverage after police found the bodies of seven women in abandoned buildings there.

The 2008 warrant for Vann’s arrest, first published by the Austin American Statesman, describes a brutal stranger rape in Vann’s own apartment and unmistakable DNA evidence.

Jon Cassidy can be reached at jon@watchdog.org or @jpcassidy000.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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