Computer records show Christopher Vaughn tracked down stripper, her family
By JON SEIDEL AND ERIKA WURST Sun-Times Media September 6, 2012 6:12AM
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: September 7, 2012 9:42AM
Last week, when she reluctantly took the stand in a Will County courtroom, former exotic dancer Maya Drake told jurors that she never gave Christopher Vaughn her full name or address during their visits together at a Chicago gentleman’s club in 2007.
That fact did not stop Vaughn from hunting down the object of his affection, locating addresses for Drake, including the Kentucky home she grew up in.
Lisa Calarese, a computer forensic analyst with the Illinois State Police who examined Vaughn’s personal laptop, testified that Vaughn had searched for Drake’s information online, and even located family members of the dancer. Drake testified last week that she thought Vaughn had hacked into her personal computer.
Drake’s name was one of several internet searches Vaughn made in the weeks leading up to the June 14, 2007, death of his wife and children. The searches were introduced into evidence after Calarese explained how she retrieved encrypted information from Vaughn’s computer. Two laptops, two hard drives and several cell phones were taken from the Vaughn home after his arrest. Prosecutors hope his searches will shed light on the crimes for which Vaughn is accused.
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.
Vaughn has alleged that after arguing with his wife over the lack of time he was spending with his children, he conjured up the last minute idea to take his family to a Springfield water park. When Calarese searched Vaughn’s computer, the trip seemed more planned than Vaughn had led investigators to initially believe. Searches show that as early as June 7, and again on June 11, Vaughn was researching the park, not on the 13th as he has claimed.
Also found on the equipment were searches for Missouri bed and breakfast inns, where Vaughn claims he was planning to take his wife the weekend after she was found shot to death in the family SUV. A reservation page points to June 16 and 17 as dates Vaughn had inquired about booking. Searches also popped up for strip clubs, and led Calarese to a web page where Vaughn makes reference to his upcoming trip to Canada.
More than 90 pages of pictures hidden in encrypted files were found on Vaughn’s personal laptop. Most of the photographs were of his camping trips. Maps of the Yukon and guides to the outdoors, all obtained from Vaughn’s computers, were also shown to jurors.
Later, Calarese read emails that Kimberly Vaughn had sent, including one in which she said she told people at a party, “Chris doesn’t put himself in the position to cheat.”
“He is not out cruising the bars,” she said.
Earlier Thursday, a forensic pathologist took the witness stand again, once again saying he can’t conclusively determine if Vaughn’s wife’s death was a suicide or homicide.
Dr. Larry Blum explained in clinical detail Wednesday how Kimberly Vaughn and the children died, but he didn’t offer an opinion about the manner of their deaths — homicide, suicide or otherwise. He conceded to Vaughn’s defense attorney he couldn’t rule out suicide in the case of Kimberly Vaughn.
Blum also told Lenard on Wednesday that Kimberly Vaughn’s toxicology reports show she had the anti-seizure medicine Topamax and the antidepressant drug Nortriptyline in her body when she died. The amount of Nortriptyline found in Kimberly’s system was just at toxic levels, Blum said.
On Thursday, though, he warned the level readings can go up threefold after death. But he also allowed the FDA has warned both drugs could cause suicidal thoughts.