Pathologist won’t say if Christopher Vaughn family’s deaths were homicides
By ERIKA WURST AND JON SEIDEL Sun-Times Media September 5, 2012 6:06AM
The Vaughn family, (upper left to right): Christopher, Kimberly, Abigayle, and (bottom from left) Cassandra and Blake are shown in an undated photo in front of Rosemont Theater in the Chicago area, where the Phoenix University graduation was held.
Updated: October 7, 2012 7:53AM
A forensic pathologist explained in cold, clinical detail Wednesday how the bullets that killed Christopher Vaughn’s family traveled through their bodies as they sat in their red Ford Expedition five years ago.
Prosecutors also showed the jury in Vaughn’s murder trial tightly cropped photos of the wounds on the dead bodies of Vaughn’s children as Dr. Larry Blum explained the family’s cause of death. He didn’t offer an opinion about the manner of their deaths — homicide, suicide or otherwise — but admitted to Vaughn’s defense attorney he couldn’t rule out suicide in the case of Vaughn’s 34-year-old wife, Kimberly.
Blum also said the amount of an anti-depressant found in Kimberly Vaughn’s body after her death bordered on toxic.
Christopher Vaughn is on trial for the shooting deaths of his wife and their three children — 12-year-old Abigayle, 11-year-old Cassandra and 8-year-old Blake. Police found their bodies June 14, 2007, in the family SUV parked off a frontage road west of Interstate 55 after a bloody Vaughn waved down a passing motorist nearby.
His attorneys contend Kimberly Vaughn shot her husband, who suffered minor gunshot wounds on his left leg and wrist, and then killed the children before turning the gun on herself. Prosecutors, though, believe Vaughn slaughtered his family so he could be rid of his obligations in Oswego and move to the Canadian wilderness for a life of isolation.
Blum said Kimberly Vaughn was shot under her chin, pointing again to graphic photos viewed repeatedly by the jury of Vaughn’s wife dead in the passenger seat of the SUV. She would have been immediately incapacitated, Blum said, with death following “very shortly thereafter.”
Abigayle, who was seated behind the driver’s seat, was shot just below her right eyebrow and in her right lower chest. Cassandra, who sat between her siblings in the middle of the back seat, was shot in the middle of her forehead and in her chest. Blake, he said, was shot in the forehead and left underarm.
“His arm would have had to be up,” Blum said.
All six bullets went through the children, Blum said, and the injuries to their heads suggest the gun was fired from between 1-1/2 and 2 feet away.
Blum said he didn’t perform the autopsies on the Vaughn family — the doctor who examined them has since died. Blum testified all four died of gunshot wounds based on five-year-old records. He told defense attorney George Lenard he wouldn’t rule out suicide in the case of Kimberly Vaughn, but Judge Daniel Rozak later reined in Lenard from that line of questioning.
Blum also told Lenard that Kimberly Vaughn’s toxicology report show she had the anti-seizure medicine Topamax and the anti-depressant drug Nortriptyline in her body when she died. The amount of Nortriptyline found in Kimberly’s system was just at toxic levels, Blum said.
“My understanding is she was taking this as part of her migraine therapy,” Blum said.
Blum’s testimony is expected to continue Thursday.