‘Light at the end of tunnel’ in Christopher Vaughn murder trial
By ERIKA WURST AND JON SEIDEL Sun-Times Media September 7, 2012 9:52AM
Chris Regis, Left, Jim Long, center, and Adam Capelli carry out evidence in the Christopher Vaughn trial, outside the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, IL on Tuesday September 4, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:14PM
After three weeks of hearing testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, jurors deciding the fate of Christopher Vaughn could see “light at the end of the tunnel,” as soon as Tuesday, Judge Daniel Rozak told them Friday.
Rozak, who is presiding over Vaughn’s trial on quadruple murder charges, said he expects prosecutors to rest their case late Tuesday.
“This is almost unheard of,” Rozak said of the pace of the trial, which is moving exponentially faster than the Drew Peterson trial that was held in the courtroom next door.
“Hopefully we’ll keep things going at this pace,” Rozak said. Next week’s lineup depends on how quickly prosecutors can fly witnesses into town, he said.
On Friday, as their case began to wind to a close, prosecutors introduced blood evidence they say will prove Vaughn was in the family SUV, and wielding the gun, when his wife and three children were shot to death in the vehicle in 2007.
For five years now, Vaughn has claimed he was the first victim of the June 14, 2007, shooting and that he fled from the Ford Expedition after being shot in the wrist and thigh by his wife. But on Friday, prosecutors presented more evidence suggesting that story is a lie.
If Vaughn exited the SUV immediately after he was shot twice by his wife, how did Kimberly Vaughn’s blood end up on the jacket he was wearing?
In July 2007, Kelly Krajnik, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police, examined blood found on Christopher Vaughn’s clothing and other items found inside the vehicle where his family was killed.
Blood stains from the SUV’s console, a seatbelt worn by Kimberly Vaughn, Christopher Vaughn’s clothing and other items found in the car told a little more about what happened on that June morning when Kimberly Vaughn, 34, and her children — 12-year-old Abigayle, 11-year-old Cassandra and 8-year-old Blake — were shot to death.
Prosecutors say Vaughn wanted to shed his suburban life in Oswego so he could move to the Canadian wilderness. But Vaughn’s defense attorneys maintain it was a suicidal Kimberly Vaughn who shot her husband and three children before turning the gun on herself. Blood evidence appears to disprove that tale.
Krajnik said Kimberly Vaughn’s blood was found on a jacket her husband was wearing at the time of the shootings, which contradicts his claim that Kimberly Vaughn shot herself after he had left the scene to flag down a passing vehicle for help.
He told the passerby that his wife pulled a gun on him, and told police he never heard the additional seven shots that were fired after he allegedly exited the SUV. Each child was shot twice, and Kimberly Vaughn was shot once under her chin.
Blood evidence found on the passenger side seatbelt, where Kimberly Vaughn was sitting, also matched Christopher Vaughn. Prosecutors allege Vaughn removed the seat belt from his wife’s lap after she was dead. The evidence appears to show Christopher Vaughn had been shot and was bleeding before that buckle was removed from her lap. The odds of the blood being anyone else’s besides Vaughn’s were one in 2.6 quintillion, Krajnik said.
Late Friday afternoon, additional evidence was introduced showing Vaughn’s blood in several places throughout the vehicle -- not just on the driver’s side where he was allegedly shot. Vaughn’s blood was found on Kimberly’s shirt, Kimberly’s shorts, on the passenger side floorboard, and in 17 stains found on both sides of the seatbelt Kimberly was allegedly wearing when she was shot.
Krajnik also tested a piece of flesh that ballistic experts found singed to a bullet hole in the bottom left of Vaughn’s coat. The hole had stumped forensic experts, who had trouble determining how the hole was made. Vaughn had no wound to his torso.
It was concluded that someone had wrapped the murder weapon in the jacket before the shot was fired, possibly as a way to conceal the weapon, soften the blow or silence a shot. DNA testing showed the flesh matched Christopher Vaughn.
Earlier Friday, several Illinois State Police employees introduced evidence they had found during a June 14, 2007 search of the Vaughn family’s Oswego home and the red SUV. Medicine prescribed to Kimberly was found and confiscated from the home’s master bathroom. A gun case, two magazines, and boxes of bullets were found in a closet containing Vaughn’s personal belongings.
Taken from the SUV was a blood stained book and water bottle, along with Kimberly’s purse, a program from her college graduation, and a Google map printout with directions from the Vaughn home to the Springfield water park where the family was allegedly headed when the murders occurred.