Blood expert says Christopher Vaughn’s story doesn’t gel with evidence
By JON SEIDEL AND ERIKA WURST Sun-Times Media September 11, 2012 9:28AM
Christopher Vaughn. Photo input: 8/15/12. Will County Sheriff's Office.
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:24PM
The story Christopher Vaughn told police the day his family died didn’t explain why his blood was found on his wife’s seat belt, an expert testified Tuesday.
It didn’t explain how his blood wound up on the center console of his Ford Expedition and the side of Kimberly Vaughn’s shorts, nor how her blood wound up on his jacket.
And it didn’t explain why investigators found drops of his blood on the floor of the SUV beside the 9 mm Taurus pistol that lay between Kimberly’s dead feet.
Nearing the end of their case in the quadruple murder trial of Christopher Vaughn, prosecutors called bloodstain-pattern analyst Paul Kish to provide some of the most damning testimony yet against the Oswego man accused of killing his 34-year-old wife and their three small children.
Kish’s testimony suggested a bloody Christopher Vaughn was moving around the inside of the SUV — and over his wife’s body — after Kimberly was shot under her chin. Defense attorney George Lenard asked for a mistrial after Kish told jurors Kimberly was shot before her husband was wounded that day, based on “the facts of the case.” After a short recess, Judge Daniel Rozak denied the request.
Police found Vaughn’s family shot to death June 14, 2007, after Vaughn, bloody and limping and nursing gunshot wounds in his left wrist and thigh flagged down a passing motorist along a frontage road west of Interstate 55. The bodies of his wife and children were found in the red Ford Expedition, which was parked by a cell phone tower nearby.
Vaughn said he was taking his wife and kids — 12-year-old Abigayle, 11-year-old Cassandra and 8-year-old Blake — to a water park in Springfield. He said his wife got sick, and he pulled over in a secluded area to give her some privacy. Vaughn said he got out of the car, checked the rooftop luggage carrier and returned to the driver’s seat. That’s when he said his wife shot him and he stumbled out of the SUV onto the frontage road.
But prosecutors contend Vaughn got out of the car and shot his wife and three children.
Ballistics expert Matthew Noedel had testified the bullets that killed Abigayle and Cassandra came from the left shoulder of the front passenger seat. On Tuesday he said there was plenty of room for someone to reach over Kimberly’s body in the passenger seat and fire the gun at the three children, even inflicting the close-range gunshot wounds investigators said they found on the children’s bodies.
Then, prosecutors have said, Vaughn returned to the driver’s seat and shot himself to make it look like his wife pulled the trigger. When he was done, they’ve said, he dropped the gun between Kimberly’s feet and unbuckled her seat belt.
Kish said he was asked to study the Ford and other pieces of physical evidence in the case. He said blood matching Vaughn was found near the front of the center console, on the cover of one of Kimberly’s books, on the floor between Kimberly’s feet and on Kimberly’s seat belt. And he said Kimberly’s seat belt was fully retracted when police found her.
Kimberly’s blood also dripped onto the rear end of the center console. But he said the blood pattern there suggested someone made a wiping motion across the middle of the console from the driver’s side toward the front on the passenger’s side.
“You can clearly see motion going across those stains while they’re still wet and wiping them away,” Kish said.
And he said that motion must have been made by someone other than Kimberly.
“The only other person would have been Christopher Vaughn,” Kish said.
Vaughn sat passively at the defense table Tuesday, as he has through most of the trial, and listened to the attorneys question Kish. Under Lenard’s cross-examination, Kish remained adamant he saw no sign of a struggle between Vaughn and his wife. He said Kimberly was immobile — and likely deceased — when her husband’s blood reached her seatbelt.
Vaughn’s blood was found in more than 20 areas along both the inside and outside of Kimberly’s seatbelt, as well as on the buckle. His blood was not, however, found on Kimberly’s arms or shirt as Kish said he’d expect if there had been a struggle.
Lenard tried to counter Kish’s theory with some of his own, suggesting Kimberly could have been alive and well when her husband reached toward her. He even suggested the sound of a gunshot in an enclosed car could have made her pause as her ears rung.
Kish conceded Lenard’s theory was possible.
“But it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.