Chris Vaughn’s day of reckoning finally here
BY JON SEIDEL Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org September 19, 2012 4:36PM
Christopher Vaughn. Photo input: 8/15/12. Will County Sheriff's Office.
Updated: October 21, 2012 2:46PM
Christopher Vaughn has been waiting for this day ever since his arrest moments before his family’s funeral more than five years ago.
When he appears in the Joliet courtroom of Judge Daniel Rozak on Thursday, lawyers will make their closing arguments to a jury that’s been listening for weeks as prosecutors tried to prove Vaughn put a gun under his wife’s chin and pulled the trigger.
They say he then fired two bullets through each of his young children as they sat buckled into the backseat of the family SUV on June 14, 2007.
Though prosecutors say Vaughn pulled the trigger, Vaughn and his three-member defense team say his 34-year-old wife, Kimberly, shot and killed Abigayle, 12, Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8, before committing suicide.
Vaughn will face life in prison if he’s convicted of murdering his family because Illinois abolished the death penalty.
Here’s a look at the evidence the jury will consider during its deliberations:
The case against Christopher Vaughn
Prosecutors called about 80 witnesses over more than three weeks to give jurors insight into the crime scene, life inside the Vaughn house, Christopher Vaughn’s secret visits to Chicago-area strip clubs and his obsession with a new life in the Canadian wilderness.
The Vaughn children were each killed by two “precision” gunshots, prosecutors said, and experts said the wounds on their bodies suggested the 9 mm Taurus pistol that killed them was fired from about a foot away.
Christopher Vaughn was familiar with guns and visited a shooting range the night before his family’s death, according to trial testimony. Kimberly, meanwhile, wrote in an email read to jurors she considered a career in law enforcement but hesitated because of the “gun thing.”
A bloodstain-pattern analyst told jurors a bloody Christopher Vaughn appeared to have been moving around the inside of his SUV — and over his wife’s body — after she was shot. Vaughn told police he left the vehicle after she shot him, and before she took a bullet under her chin.
The manager of Scores Chicago, a gentlemen’s club in Stone Park, said Vaughn spent $4,788 at her club in the days before the shootings.
And a Canadian man said he received several emails from Vaughn as the two men planned in 2006 and 2007 to vanish together into the Yukon.
It took Vaughn’s lawyers about a week to put on their defense, but they also tried to plant seeds of doubt in the jurors’ minds as they listened to the prosecutors’ witnesses.
They prompted Kimberly Vaughn’s sister, Elizabeth Nicole Isemann, to tell the jury Kimberly confided to her she feared she’d contracted AIDS, though prosecutors said she never received that diagnosis.
In Vaughn’s emails to the Canadian man, they also pointed out he never mentioned a plan to kill his family. Instead, he said he wanted to fake his own death so his wife could cash in on his $3.5 million life insurance policy.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors’ forensic pathologist testified Kimberly had a toxic amount of the antidepressant drug Nortriptyline in her body when she died, though he said that reading might have gone up threefold after her death.
Vaughn’s attorneys also called Kimberly’s doctors to the stand to talk about Nortriptyline and the anti-seizure medicine also found in Kimberly’s system, Topamax. One doctor, Pradeep Bhatia, said there was no indication Kimberly was depressed when he last saw her in April 2007.
Vaughn’s bloodstain expert, Tom Bevel, of Oklahoma, testified he saw possible back-spatter bloodstains on Kimberly’s left thumb, her right sneaker and the gun, suggesting a self-inflicted wound. But Bevel also conceded his analysis of the crime scene doesn’t match Vaughn’s version of what happened that day.