JOLIET, Ill. (STMW) — Anticipating a “very rare” suicide defense from accused family killer Christopher Vaughn, a Will County judge ruled Thursday jurors may see several online chat messages and emails written by his late wife, Sun-Times Media is reporting.
Judge Daniel Rozak said this could be the first time he’s seen a murder suspect claim his alleged victim committed suicide. If Vaughn’s attorneys make that claim, Rozak said, Kimberly Vaughn’s electronic missives would offer a glimpse into her state of mind.
The notes show Kimberly Vaughn making plans in the final hours of her life to work on classroom assignments, Rozak said, looking forward to her graduation and a new career.
Though George Lenard, Christopher Vaughn’s public defender, argued the messages put his client in a bad light, Rozak said Kimberly Vaughn described her husband as a hard worker and even identified him as a hero in a class assignment.
“They don’t put him in a bad light at all,” Rozak said.
Prosecutors have said nothing in Kimberly Vaughn’s writings suggests she contemplated suicide or thought her husband had an affair. Vaughn said he cheated on his wife during a trip to Mexico in 2006.
Lenard said the emails and chats are irrelevant, and he objected to letting jurors see most of them.
But the judge didn’t give permission to prosecutors to use all of Kimberly Vaughn’s emails. He said he might allow another batch into the trial if prosecutors redact comments Kimberly Vaughn made about her criminal justice class.
Vaughn, 37, is accused of shooting and killing his wife and three children — Abigayle, 12, Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8 — on June 14, 2007, after pulling the family’s SUV over on I-55 near Channahon on the way to a Springfield water park.
The children were each shot twice, court records show, and Kimberly Vaughn was shot once under her chin.
Christopher Vaughn was also shot, and his defense team has argued his wife turned the gun on him and the children before killing herself.
Police found a magazine article about staging crime scenes and “making the death appear to be a suicide” in Vaughn’s Oswego home, records show, and he spent a half-hour at a Plainfield shooting range the night before the murders.
Vaughn told police “clearly and unequivocally” he never read the magazine article, a portion of which referenced rape-murders made to look like hangings. His attorneys also said his visit to the shooting range is irrelevant.
Vaughn and his attorneys will return to court Feb. 2. The case could go to trial later this year.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)