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Kimberly Vaughn’s sister: She feared she had AIDS

Prosecutors Debbie Mills (left) Chris Regis (center) Michael Fitzgerald (second from right) Jim Long (right) depart conclusiday two Christopher Vaughn

Prosecutors Debbie Mills (left), Chris Regis (center), Michael Fitzgerald (second from right) and Jim Long (right) depart at the conclusion of day two of the Christopher Vaughn murder trial at the Will County Courthouse Tuesday, August 21, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 23, 2012 6:10AM

Before police found her dead with her children in the family SUV five years ago, Kimberly Vaughn confided to her older sister she feared she’d contracted AIDS.

Elizabeth Nicole Isemann told the jury in the murder trial of Christopher Vaughn, Kimberly’s husband, in a raspy drawl cracking with emotion how her younger sister — her “best friend” — would talk to her about “very personal issues.”

They spoke on the phone virtually every day, she said, even though Kimberly Vaughn was living in Oswego and Isemann was in Nebraska.

At the prompting of Christopher Vaughn’s defense attorney, George Lenard, Isemann also said Kimberly Vaughn had been feeling ill and once said she worried she’d contracted the disease. Lenard fought to ask the question over objections from prosecutors who said Kimberly Vaughn was never diagnosed with AIDS.

Christopher Vaughn is on trial for the murder of Kimberly Vaughn, 34, and the couple’s three children. But Lenard has said police came upon a murder-suicide June 14, 2007, when they found Kimberly Vaughn, 12-year-old Abigayle, 11-year-old Cassandra and 8-year-old Blake inside their Ford Expedition along a frontage road near Interstate 55.

The family was supposed to be on its way to a Springfield water park. But Lenard has said Kimberly Vaughn shot the children after Christopher Vaughn pulled over, and then she turned the gun on herself.

And as jurors began to hear more of the context surrounding the shootings Tuesday, Lenard said it’s important they know what Kimberly Vaughn might have had on her mind at the time. Lenard has already said Christopher Vaughn confessed a December 2006 affair with one or two women in Mexico to his wife before her death, so Kimberly Vaughn might have thought he passed the disease on to her.

But prosecutors are expected to argue Christopher Vaughn never told her he’d been unfaithful. And with the jury out of the courtroom, they said Kimberly Vaughn had been date raped when she was 17 — another potential source of her AIDS fear.

Will County Judge Daniel Rozak ultimately sided with Lenard. He brought Isemann back into the courtroom to answer Lenard’s question. She did, and she joined Kimberly Vaughn’s other friends and family members in describing what had been going on in the Vaughn household before the gruesome discovery by the interstate.

Kimberly Vaughn was on the verge of graduation, getting ready to celebrate 13 years of marriage and planning a surprise for her parents’ own wedding anniversary.

“She was exuberant,” said Kimberly Vaughn’s father, Del Phillips, of the last weekend he spent with his daughter. “She was excited about graduating. She just wanted to celebrate.”

And they were excited for her.

To help their daughter celebrate, Del and Susan Phillips drove from Missouri to Oswego on June 7 to spend time with the family and attend Kimberly Vaughn’s Saturday graduation in Rosemont.

Friday, the grandparents took over babysitting duties while Kimberly and Christopher Vaughn spent time together at the movies. Saturday’s ceremony was followed by a nice German dinner in Naperville — Christopher Vaughn picked up the bill — and by the time Del and Susan Phillips left on Monday morning, there was little to suggest it would be their last chance to see their daughter and grandchildren.

The weekend wasn’t perfect. Del Phillips said Kimberly Vaughn seemed upset with her husband for not cooking breakfast on the morning of her graduation. And before Kimberly Vaughn’s parents returned to Missouri, Del Phillips said Christopher Vaughn walked past him and out the door without saying goodbye. Kimberly Vaughn later found herself defending her husband to her father.

“Kim gave all types of plausible excuses for his behavior,” Del Phillips said. “She defended him like she always defended him. I was criticizing him, I’ll admit it.”

Then, hours before the shootings on June 13, Kimberly Vaughn was calling her sister about a cheesy potato recipe. She’d turned in a homework assignment, caught up on grocery shopping and got things in order for the upcoming work week.

Then their backyard neighbors, Todd and Hillary Andrlik, invited themselves over for dinner when they heard Kimberly Vaughn was making steaks. Appearing in the courtroom Tuesday afternoon, the Andrliks said nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the home of their best friends in the neighborhood.

Conversation was casual, though Christopher Vaughn filled Todd Andrlik in on the “danger” associated with his travels in Mexico and Canada. Cassandra Vaughn seemed particularly excited for her summer science camp about to begin. But there was no mention of an early morning trip to a Springfield water park.

Kimberly Vaughn, they said, seemed relaxed.

“She was herself,” Hillary Andrlik said. “And I didn’t notice anything different.”

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