Texas prosecutors may not have offered a suspected serial killer such a lenient prison sentence in a 2009 sexual assault case had they known about his conviction on a similar charge in Indiana five years earlier, a district attorney's spokesman said Monday.
Darren Vann, who last week confessed to killing seven women in Indiana, agreed to a five-year prison term plea deal in the 2009 sexual assault case. Vann had initially been charged with first-degree felony sexual assault, which carried a 99-year prison sentence.
In a statement Monday, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said she offered Vann the reduced charge deal because there was a lack of DNA evidence and the victim had provided inconsistent statements.
In the 2004 case, Vann served a year in prison after an Indiana woman said he grabbed her in a chokehold, doused her in gasoline and threatened to set fire to her. Vann registered as a sex offender in Indiana.
Lehmberg's spokesman, Rudy Magallanes, said in a separate email that the 2004 case did not appear in Vann's criminal history when prosecutors examined it in 2009.
"If the prosecutor would have known about the (Indiana) conviction and the facts of the case, it could have potentially affected the prosecutor's decision," he said.
Instead, Texas officials deemed him a low risk for violence. The state risk assessment committee's staff evaluates the inmate before release and assigns risk scores, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.
It was unclear if Vann's previous criminal history was available to the Texas risk assessment staff, but Clark said that even it if had been Vann still would have been rated "low" risk because he served his entire Indiana sentence and was not under Texas supervision upon his release.