Vaughn Admits in Police Video that Wife Shot Him
In a second day of taped interviews shown to the jury at Vaughn's murder trial, the Oswego man changes his story and recalls that his wife fired a gun at him.
Head in his hands, Christopher Vaughn faced the floor, spoke in a barely audible voice and told investigators what he thought they wanted to hear: Yes, his wife shot him.
In the second day of videotaped evidence presented at Vaughn's Will County murder trial, the jury was able to observe the Oswego man as he appeared on June 15, 2007, the day after his wife, Kimberly, 34, and his children, Abigayle, 12, Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8, were found shot in the family's SUV.
Vaughn, then 32, had undergone a grueling 14 hours of interviews with Illinois State Police detectives the previous day, dressed in the hospital gown he was given after being treated for gun shot injuries he received to his left wrist and thigh. Throughout those conversations, he spoke in a subdued monotone.
He was far more engaged the next day, perhaps lured into a false sense of security by state police Sgt. Joseph Stavola, who tried to befriend him by talking about his own fictitious marital problems.
The tactic may have worked. When Stavola almost whispered to Vaughn that he needed to be honest for his kids, even if his wife's reputation was tarnished, Vaughn started talking.
"I got in the truck and I looked over at Kim and she had a gun," he said. "I put my hand up. I don't know if she was mad at me or what. ... It was loud, and then it became quiet."
He fled the SUV, which was parked on a gravel path off of a frontage road near Channahon, never thinking his wife could hurt their children, Vaughn said.
"It was like, I don't know, my mind shut off," he told the investigators. "I was stunned. All I could think of was I had to get out of there. ... Maybe she wasn't trying to hit me. Maybe she was trying to scare me."
Vaughn said he flagged down someone to help him, and admitted to him that he thought his wife had just shot him. He was so convinced his wife wasn't a threat to his children, he said, that he thought it was safe to wait for the police to arrive and deal with her.
If there were additional gun shots fired, he didn't hear them, he said.
As for why he wasn't forthcoming the previous day about his wife's role in the deaths of their children, claiming he didn't know how he came to be shot or his family dead, Vaughn said he thought some sort of mental defense mechanism took over.
"I thought it over last night," he said. "I think I was trying to forget pieces.
"It had to have been (my gun). All I thought was Kim doesn't have a gun. Why does she have a gun?"
The family ended up in the remote area because Kimberly Vaughn told her husband she was feeling ill and might be sick. Because she was embarrassed to be seen by passersby, he knew to park in a more secluded area, he said.
Was it all just a pretense to get Vaughn to drive to a remote spot so she could murder him and their children, the detectives asked.
"I don't know. I thought she was sick," he said.
Throughout the interview, Stavola tried to get Vaughn to talk about why he didn't take a shower or change his clothes from the previous day before leaving on the family trip to a water park, both of which Vaughn brushed off in the interview.
Those actions might be key to the prosecution's case because a magazine article found in Vaughn's home explains how murder can be made to look like suicide. According to testimony offered by a state trooper Tuesday, the article suggested the would-be murderer go to a gun range the day before the murder and not shower before committing the crime, thereby offering an explanation for the presence of gun powder on his/her clothing and body.
Also of interest was a small white rag that was seen on Kimberly Vaughn's lap in photos taken after she allegedly shot herself in the head. Christopher Vaughn made reference in his police interviews to using the same type of rag to cover his gun when it was inside its case.
That rag, although washed mistakenly by staff at the Will County coroner's office, was entered into evidence Wednesday, as were several items removed from the Vaughn home. Among them, two computers, a computer tower, external hard drive, 9-mm gun, a date calendar, Christopher Vaughn's passport, and the gun case and duffel bag in which he stored his gun.
Here are the stories from the previous days of testimony: