The discovery last weekend of the bodies of seven women, mostly prostitutes, in Indiana did not result from a manhunt for a serial killer of the kind seen in television crime dramas. Rather, it was the arrest of Darren Deon Vann, 43, in connection with the disappearance of one woman, Afrika Hardy, 19, that had the registered sex offender spilling his guts about crimes of which authorities had little knowledge, writes criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University in USA Today. This is a familiar story to those who pay close attention to such crimes in real life. Serial murders of prostitutes — streetwalkers, escorts, and outcall sex workers — have occurred in virtually every state, with many of the cases unsolved and frustratingly cold.
Criminologist Kenna Quinet of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis says, as many as one-third of repeat killers have included prostitutes among their prey. Moreover, the body count may be severely understated from what Quinet has termed the “missing missing”: missing persons never reported as missing. The high prevalence of prostitute slayings is partially a result of their easy accessibility. Most important is that the killer who stalks prostitutes can count on a slow response from law enforcement and minimal attention from the general public. Were he to abduct some middle-class co-ed, the response would be intense and immediate, as it was following the recent disappearance of University Virginia student Hannah Graham.