Expert: Bullet holes in Christopher Vaughn jacket raise suspicion
By ERIKA WURST Sun-Times Media August 30, 2012 6:23AM
Christopher Vaughn. Photo input: 8/15/12. Will County Sheriff's Office.
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:44PM
Abby, Cassandra and Blake Vaughn will never get the chance to tell jurors what happened that early June morning in 2007 when they were shot and killed in the family’s red SUV.
They will never testify that it was their mother, Kimberly, who put two bullets in each of their tiny bodies before turning the gun on herself, or if it was their father who wielded the gun.
On Thursday, the ninth day of the Christopher Vaughn murder trial, Nicole Fundell, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police, got a chance to shed some light on what might have happened. After inspecting the jeans and fleece jacket Vaughn wore on June 14, 2007, Fundell seemed to contradict what the Oswego father and his attorneys have insisted occurred that morning.
Vaughn contends he was shot twice by Kimberly Vaughn after he pulled over on a desolate frontage road off Interstate 55 in Channahon so his wife could get sick. The family was on their way to a water park in Springfield when Kimberly pulled out a silver pistol and shot him in both the left wrist and leg, he said.
But when Vaughn’s jacket was examined, Fundell said it had four bullet holes ripped through it, instead of two as she expected to find had Vaughn’s tale panned out.
Consistent with his story, Fundell found an entrance and exit hole in the jacket’s left sleeve. She said it was made with the family’s pistol firing in direct contact with, or within six inches, of Vaughn’s wrist, where he had suffered a superficial gunshot wound that day.
He also was shot in the leg, but that wouldn’t have left any damage to his jacket, leaving the other two holes in the coat hard for Fundell to explain.
There was no wound on Vaughn’s torso, and despite her best efforts to recreate how the bullet holes got in the jacket, she was stumped. She concluded that someone wrapped the pistol in the jacket, to either silence or conceal the weapon -- or cushion a blow -- when the mysterious shot was fired that left the two other bullet holes.
On Thursday afternoon, she demonstrated for jurors how she believed the holes were made. Wrapping the jacket around the pistol, Fundell explained how the gun was fired against a hard surface -- such as skin -- leaving a piece of possible flesh clinging to the exit hole.
The gun, she said, was “contained within the jacket at the time of discharge.” It was either in contact with or near the hard surface. Prosecutors have hypothesized that Vaughn wrapped the gun in the jacket to cushion the blow before shooting himself.
This was the first piece of forensic evidence jurors have been presented. For most of this week they’ve sat through nearly a dozen hours of videotaped footage of Vaughn being interrogated by Illinois State Police after his wife and children were found dead.
On Thursday morning, they saw Vaughn’s third interview, which took place on Father’s Day, 2007.
Illinois State Police Sgt. Joseph Stavola said the interview was planned to obtain computer passwords from Vaughn and to gauge his demeanor on what investigators imagined would be an emotional day for the father.
Vaughn didn’t shed a single tear during the short interview.
“The kids got really good grades,” Vaughn said when he was asked about his children. He added that Abby, 12, got straight A’s. Blake, 8, was a “little boy genius,” he said, and Cassandra, 11, “talked more than she listened,” but was still a point of pride in his life.
He brought up the family dogs, and painted a picture of a loving family unit.
Vaughn told investigators that despite recent problems he and Kimberly, 34, were having, the couple was trying to reconcile. He was planning a romantic getaway to celebrate the couple’s 13th anniversary as a way to compensate for recent admissions that he had been unfaithful.
Despite being upset by his infidelity, Kimberly was never one to get violent, Vaughn said. When she was frustrated or upset, “she would raise her voice, and that’s about it,” he said.
“She would cry a lot … say mean things, but she was never violent.”
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Vaughn killed his family in hopes of eliminating his “obligations” before jettisoning his suburban family life in Oswego for one of solitude in the Canadian wilderness. Defense attorneys maintain Kimberly Vaughn was suicidal when she shot her husband and children before turning the gun on herself.