Christopher Vaughn tells cops of wife: ‘I think she had a gun’
By JON SEIDEL AND ERIKA WURST Sun-Times Media August 29, 2012 6:56AM
Christopher Vaughn. Photo input: 8/15/12. Will County Sheriff's Office.
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:02PM
Christopher Vaughn leaned forward in his chair at the end of another long police interview the day after his family’s deaths.
Investigators urged him for hours to “fill in the gaps” as they tried to understand why they found his wife, Kimberly, and three small children dead in the family SUV on June 14, 2007. By now they’d given him a chance to rest and change his clothing, and they’d abandoned the aggressive interrogation that already prompted Vaughn to crumple up photos of his children.
This time the two cops tried a new approach — bonding with Vaughn over troubled marriages. And that led the reluctant Oswego man to give up a few more details.
Once again, Vaughn told them how he pulled his red Ford Expedition onto a frontage road west of Interstate 55 and south of Bluff Road during an early morning road trip to Springfield. And again he told them how he got out after parking near a cell phone tower to check the rooftop luggage carrier before returning to the driver’s seat.
But up until this point, he’d refused to explain how he wound up sitting in his car with gunshot wounds in his left leg and wrist.
“I look over at Kim,” Vaughn said this time as the officers quietly urged him on, “and I think she had a gun.”
Until then Vaughn had also denied hearing any gunshots that day. But he finally gave in to Sgts. Joseph Stavola and Gary Lawson.
“It was loud,” Vaughn said, “and then everything was quiet.”
He said he put up his left hand. He said he froze. He looked down and saw his leg was bleeding. That’s when he decided to leave the SUV.
“I should have stayed,” Vaughn said. “I should have done something. I didn’t think it was real. It wasn’t possible.”
He leaned over and mumbled his comments to the cops in a voice barely above a whisper. And when the interview ended, Stavola reached down and put his hand on Vaughn’s back.
“It takes a man to tell the truth,” Stavola said.
Police would arrest Vaughn days later for the murders of his 34-year-old wife and their three children — 12-year-old Abigayle, 11-year-old Cassandra and 8-year-old Blake. He’s finally on trial, and the jury that will decide his guilt has been watching video for three days of Vaughn being picked apart by the Illinois State Police.
Prosecutors claim Vaughn wanted to be free of his obligations in suburban Chicago so he could go live by himself in the Canadian wilderness. His attorneys still contend Kimberly shot her husband and their children before shooting herself. A passing motorist discovered Vaughn bleeding on the side of the frontage road, north of where he’d left the SUV.
In the hours that followed, investigators would try to break Vaughn by shoving photos of his children at him, accusing him of talking “like a little girl” and calling him names. But this time Stavola tried to empathize with him by making up details about himself that would mimic Vaughn’s life story.
Stavola told him he was divorced, had an affair, beat his wife and had two children. At one point, he told Vaughn he “snapped and punched” his wife in the face.
And he admitted to the jury Wednesday it had all been a lie.
“Not to judge, but it seems like you got off easy,” Vaughn told the cop at one point as Stavola rattled off his fake story.
Stavola arranged two chairs in the interview room to look like the inside of Vaughn’s car, with Vaughn in the driver’s seat and Stavola on the passenger side. Later, he asked Vaughn about the last things he could remember his children saying to him. Vaughn could only remember what Abigayle asked him before they left the house.
“Do I have to comb my hair?” Vaughn said, quoting his oldest daughter.
Finally, Stavola and Lawson turned and pushed for Vaughn to explain what happened “for your children.” That’s when Vaughn told them about the gun in Kimberly’s hand.
He spoke so softly prosecutors had to pause the video and replay portions for the jury with a louder sound system.
Earlier Wednesday, prosecutors questioned Lawson and Special Agent Cornelious Monroe, who interviewed Vaughn together in a video viewed earlier. Monroe was particularly aggressive in the interview five years ago, at one point calling Vaughn the “biggest p---- I’ve ever seen.”
But Monroe told the jury he didn’t remember making that comment.
“Did I say that?” Monroe said.
He finally conceded he did, after defense attorney George Lenard showed him a transcript of his five-year-old interview with Vaughn.