Christopher Vaughn spent almost $5,000 at strip club in days before family killed
By JON SEIDEL AND ERIKA WURST Sun-Times Media August 23, 2012 6:30AM
Christopher Vaughn, of Oswego, is on trial in Will County for the murder of his wife, Kimberly, and their children in 2007. | Will County Sheriff's Office via AP
Updated: September 25, 2012 10:42AM
Christopher Vaughn dropped nearly $5,000 at a strip club near O’Hare Airport in the days before his family’s violent shooting deaths.
Prosecutors exposed the darker side of Vaughn’s introverted life to jurors Thursday, calling a former dancer to the witness stand who said she’d been visited by the Oswego man twice in June 2007 at Scores Chicago, a gentlemen’s club in Stone Park. Chrystal Miller said Vaughn was shy, timid and uncomfortable but made a strange comment about knowing what would happen in the future.
It came shortly before Vaughn’s 34-year-old wife Kimberly and their children — 12-year-old Abigayle, 11-year-old Cassandra and 8-year-old Blake — were found shot to death in the family SUV off a frontage road west of Interstate 55 near Channahon. The family was supposed to be driving to a Springfield water park the morning of June 14, 2007.
Vaughn is charged with all four of their murders. Prosecutors have said he was trying to escape his suburban life for one of quiet isolation in Canada. But Vaughn’s attorneys argue it was Kimberly who shot Vaughn — he was found with minor gunshot wounds in his leg and wrist — before turning the gun on her children and shooting herself.
Miller earlier this year tried to avoid testifying at Vaughn’s trial before finally relenting, and she told prosecutors her memory of the encounter has faded since she testified before a Will County grand jury five years ago. She nearly turned combative later when defense attorney George Lenard tried to dispense with the niceties — he began to ask exactly what she did at the club. And he argued with her over the definition of a lap dance.
“I was an entertainer, sir,” said Miller, who went by “Cassidy” at the club.
Wearing glasses, a blue scarf and a long dress, Miller said she “vaguely remembered” Vaughn’s visits June 5 and 11, 2007. He told her he was a private investigator, that he’d been single for five years, and that he had no children. They drank together, but she said Vaughn didn’t make her dance. Lawyers said she told the grand jury Vaughn was “such a gentleman.”
Miller repeatedly said she had a poor memory of her grand jury testimony, but she said it’d be more accurate than the answers she gave Thursday. Before the grand jury, prosecutors said, Miller testified Vaughn wore a black coat, a white undershirt and cowboy boots when he visited the club.
She said Vaughn asked at the end of one of their visits if she knew what would happen in the future. She said she didn’t.
“He said, ‘I do,’” Miller said.
Then jurors heard from Scores manager Lisa Hinds, who reviewed Vaughn’s receipts for the jury. The total for his two visits, she said, was $4,788.
At least one more dancer, mentioned in a coded jailhouse poem by Vaughn and the recipient of another he penned about “ancient souls,” is expected to testify in Vaughn’s trial.
Meanwhile, prosecutors continued to undercut Vaughn’s argument his wife was suicidal, or that she would harm her children. An Illinois State Police investigator reviewed several emails written by Vaughn’s late wife to her classmates at the University of Phoenix. Kimberly called her husband — and her sister — heroes in one of her missives.
“Because of the strength and support they give me,” Kimberly Vaughn wrote.
When a school bully broke Cassandra’s wrist, Kimberly wrote about her displeasure with the principal. She also sought out school officials when they wouldn’t let Blake check out a book above a certain reading level.
And she said she wanted to go into law enforcement, but “the gun thing” stood in her way.
Finally, prosecutors called on Mark Daniels, owner of the Mega Sports shooting range in Plainfield, to review surveillance footage of his store for the jury. Vaughn visited the shooting range June 6 and June 13, 2007 -- the night before the shootings, he said. And in grainy and sometimes blurry video taken those days, Vaughn can be seen using a lane at the range.
On his first visit he wore a dark-colored T-shirt and jeans. The night before the shootings he wore a jacket, even though Daniels said his customers often complain about the heat there when the weather begins to turn warm.
The first week of testimony in Vaughn’s trial will wrap up Friday. One likely witnesses is Robert Deel of the Illinois State Police, the primary crime scene investigator in the Vaughn murders and in the case of Drew Peterson, who is also on trial in Joliet for his third wife’s murder.
Judge Daniel Rozak agreed Thursday to limit Deel’s testimony. The judge barred questions about the Peterson case, a letter Deel believes the Will County state’s attorney’s office wrote complaining about him, and his opinion on whether the deaths of Kimberly and her children were a murder-suicide.