GARY, Ind. — The bodies of seven women were found in northwestern Indiana over the weekend after a man's confession to one killing led police to the grisly discovery of the other bodies, including three in one abandoned house, authorities said Monday.
The discoveries began after a 43-year-old man allegedly confessed to killing a woman whose body was found Friday in a Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana. He then told investigators where more bodies could be found in abandoned homes in the nearby city of Gary, a deteriorating former steel town about 30 miles southeast of Chicago, police said.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Monday that the suspect is a sex offender from Austin, Texas.
Freeman-Wilson said authorities aren't certain how long the man has been in northwestern Indiana, although he does have a conviction for illegally entering a home in the area. The mayor says she doesn't know whether more bodies might be found.
"We really don't know. When you're dealing with someone like this it's just hard to tell," she said.
Hammond police Lt. Rich Hoyda said Sunday the man's name wasn't being released because he had not yet been formally charged. He would not say when charges will be filed. He was being held in the Hammond City Jail.
The bodies were found after Gary police followed up on information the man provided during questioning, Hammond police Lt. Rich Hoyda said Sunday. Hoyda wouldn't comment on how the man knew the women, a possible motive or whether the man confessed to killing any of the other women.
The Lake County coroner's office identified the victim found about 9:30 p.m. Friday at the Motel 6 as 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, and said she was strangled.
A second body was found on Saturday night in an abandoned home in Gary. The coroner said family members identified her as 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville, Indiana, who had been missing since Oct. 8.
Five other bodies were found on Sunday in various homes around Gary — including two more in the same home where the body of Jones was found on Saturday, the coroner's office said Monday. Autopsies are pending on the three women found in one house. The causes of death were not specified for all the women found in Gary.
The gruesome discoveries began after a friend reported Hardy missing.
"A friend of the deceased called us, and she was concerned when she didn't respond to her calling," Hoyda said. "We were sent there and found that person dead."
Police investigating her death obtained a search warrant for a home and vehicle in Gary. Police conducted the search Saturday afternoon and took the man into custody. Hoyda said the man confessed during questioning and then told investigators "where several other female victims of possible homicide were located."
Gary was a once-thriving steel town of 178,000, where thousands worked in the mills. But it has been struggling for decades, and its population has shrunk to just over 78,000 and its poverty rate hovers around 40 percent. Thousands of homes are abandoned, many with weeds choking broken sidewalks — often on the same streets where other homes are tidy and well-kept.
Next to City Hall, a pile of rubble marks the spot where a 12-story hotel that had been abandoned for decades recently was demolished.
On Monday, people in Gary tried to make sense of the tragedy.
"That's devastating. That's sick," said Jay Jackson, 25, a health care worker visiting a woman a few houses from where one of the bodies was found. "All we can do is pray for the city and hope for recovery."
Associated Press writers Tom Davies in Indianapolis and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.