Grim Death Scene Photos Don't Rattle Chris Vaughn on Murder Trial's First Day
The accused quadruple murderer didn't bat an eye when gruesome photos of his slain wife and children were repeatedly shown on a big-screen TV.
While prosecutors flashed grisly photos of his wife and three young children slumped dead and bleeding in the family SUV, Christopher Vaughn sat expressionless, calmly jotting notes.
But that's just the kind of guy Vaughn is, the Oswego man's lawyer said Monday on the first day of his murder trial.
"Mr. Vaughn does not show his feelings or emotions to anyone under any circumstances," said attorney George Lenard. "He's monotone. That's the way Christopher Vaughn is."
And Vaughn certainly did not betray his feelings or emotions as prosecutors repeatedly projected ghastly images of Vaughn's wife, Kimberly, 34, and children Blake, 8, Cassandra, 11, and Abigayle, 12 on a large, flat-screen television.
While Vaughn might come off as cold-hearted or callous, Lenard asked jurors not use the accused quadruple-murderer's demeanor—or eccentricities—against him.
"Mr. Vaughn likes writing poetry. Mr. Vaughn is quirky. Mr. Vaughn dresses differently than most people do," Lenard said, and that "makes him vulnerable to suspicion and accusation."
On Monday, Vaughn was wearing a tan jacket and white collared shirt. But on the day in June 2007 that his entire family was gunned down in a Ford Expedition, he did have on relatively strange attire.
While his family wore summer clothes befitting an excursion to a Springfield waterpark, Vaughn donned cowboy boots, blue jeans, a T-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt over it, and a fleece jacket he purchased on a secret trip to the Yukon, said Assistant State's Attorney Deborah Mills.
And after Vaughn was taken to the hospital with minor gunshot wounds to his wrist and leg, Mills said, Vaughn expressed more concern for his special jacket and the possibility that emergency workers "were ruining his cowboy boots" than for his dead wife and children.
Vaughn shot them all on a secluded section of the Interstate 55 frontage road just outside Channahon, Mills said.
He pulled the Expedition over, got out under the guise of checking a cargo compartment on the roof of the SUV, grabbed his wife through the open passenger window, stuck a pistol under her chin and blew her brains out, Mills said.
Then, with clinical "precision," he put two bullets each in Abigayle, Cassandra and Blake, in that order, she said. The children were shot once in the head and once in the chest.
Evidence will show that Vaughn planned to take off and live in the Yukon wilderness, Mills said, and that before going "he wanted to be without any obligations."
After killing his family, she said, Vaughn intentionally grazed his wrist with a bullet and shot himself in the leg, Mills said then "planted the gun between" Kimberly's feet.
He did this so he could later claim Kimberly shot him and the three children before turning the gun on herself, and that he was lucky enough to be the only one to leave the SUV with his life, Mills said.
Vaughn happened to use the same gun to practice shooting at a range the night before the killings, Mills mentioned.
After the killings, Vaughn staggered off and flagged down a motorist who called the police.
When he was questioned by detectives in the following days, Vaughn told them conflicting versions of how the shooting happened, Mills said, and video of the various interrogations will be shown to the jury.
But despite Mills' claims, Lenard contended "the evidence will show Mr. Vaughn did not pull the trigger in the vehicle that day his family passed away."
He also said Kimblery was taking medication for migraine headaches and an antidepressant that may have made her suicidal.
"She's happy on the outside, but you'll see, ladies and gentleman, she was troubled on the inside," Lenard said.
In the one of the photos shown by the prosecution Monday, Kimberly was sprawled dead in the Expedition's passenger seat, bleeding out of her head, nose and mouth, and from a hole under her chin.
Another showed the three children, who were settled under blankets and on pillows for the long, early-morning ride to Springfield, dead together in the backseat of the SUV.
Channahon Firefighter-Paramedic Ryan Jandura said he found a Harry Potter book and a stuffed animal by 12-year-old Abigayle's body.
Lenard objected to the death scene photos being left on the television screen for long periods of time. He also objected—while the jury was out of the courtroom—to photos taken of Kimberly and the children when they were still alive being shown on the screen.
In addition to Jandura, two other firefighters, two Channahon police officers and Kimberly's mother, Susan Phillips, testified. Her father is expected to take the witness stand Tuesday.