Updated 11/27/12 – 4:05 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — An Oswego man has been sentenced to life in prison for the horrifying murders of his wife and children.
Earlier Tuesday, Will County Judge Daniel Rozak denied Vaughn’s request for new trial in 2007 killings. Rozek then sentenced Vaughn to four consecutive terms of natural life in prison without possibility of parole.
Vaughn’s fate had been all but sealed since the day two months ago when a Will County jury took less than an hour to convict him for the cold, calculated shootings. Because Illinois no longer has the death penalty, and Vaughn was convicted of multiple murders, he could not have been sentenced to anything but life in prison.
In September, a jury found Vaughn guilty of the June 14, 2007, shooting deaths of his wife, Kimberly, 34, who once told her college classmates he was a hero, and their three children — Abigayle, 12; Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8, who prosecutors think held his left arm up defensively as his father fired the bullets at close range inside the family’s red Ford Expedition.
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After the sentence was handed down, Kimberly’s family spoke out for the first time since Kimberly and the children were killed.
CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports Kimberly’s family tried to offer some insight into Christopher Vaughn before he murdered his wife and children in cold blood. Kimberly’s family described her husband as isolated and emotionally distant.
“We had no indication from this individual that he could be so evil, or do such acts, but we did find out the hard way,” Kimberly’s father, Del Phillips said.
Kimberly’s mother, Susan Phillips, said, “I don’t think he was really an abusive father. I think he was an absent father. He traveled a lot, and Kim took the role of both parents.”
Kimberly’s mother and sister read prepared statements in court during Christopher’s sentencing hearing Tuesday, standing just feet from the man they once called an in-law.
Kimberly’s mother told the judge about how she will no longer be able to exchange jokes with her grandchildren, take them shopping and teach them to sew.
Kimberly’s sister, Nikki Isemann, described how the deaths have left her personality so dramatically changed that friends don’t want to be around her because she’s so pessimistic.
The judge asked Vaughn if he wanted to make a statement to offer anything to answer the question of why he did it, but Vaughn said, “No, thank you.”
“In my heart, I was hoping he’d open up and say why I did this, or what my justification was, or why I thought I could get away with it,” Kimberly’s father said. “I’m sorry would have been a good one. If he would have just said that, it would have helped a little bit on the closure aspect.”
It is closure Kimberly’s family now seeks, knowing those four beautiful faces will never be forgotten.
“I think this day will help our family get some closure, but I believe it’s going to take a long time to heal,” Del Phillips said.
Christopher Vaughn’s family also was in court on Tuesday. Neither he nor his family showed any emotion when the sentence was handed down.
Vaughn’s attorney filed an appeal immediately following the life sentence. His conviction came at the end of a five-week trial filled with testimony about his plans to vanish in the Canadian wilderness. Jurors also heard from two exotic dancers who said that Vaughn had visited them in the days before the murders as he spent thousands of dollars at area strip clubs.
And jurors watched Vaughn crumple up two photos of his children and throw one at an Illinois State Police special agent in a long, intense interrogation video.
His trial overlapped with the trial of Drew Peterson, the former Bolingbrook police officer convicted of killing his third wife.
Vaughn’s attorney, George Lenard, argued that his client didn’t get a fair trial, partly because the news conferences held by Peterson’s lawyers at the court damaged his own credibility as a defense attorney.
Rozak said Tuesday there is no evidence that jurors were even aware of the other attorneys’ news conferences.