Gunfire kills mom, 3 kids - Wounded dad says wife pulled the trigger, police say ‘he is not a suspect at this time’ after bodies found in SUV

First published on June 15, 2007: Kimberly Vaughn and her three children were found shot to death in the family’s SUV in Channahon Her husband, Christopher Vaughn, told investigators his wife pulled the trigger, but he continued to be questioned into the evening, authorities said.

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Christopher Vaughn is accused of killing wife and three children in June 2007

Computer consultant Christopher Vaughn is accused of killing his wife and three children in June 2007. This mug shot of Vaughn was taken from the Will County Jail Web site.

STNG

This story originally appeared in the June 15, 2007 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Everything seemed to be going well for the Vaughn family as they sat down in their Oswego home for a steak dinner with friends.

Kimberly and Christopher Vaughn were planning a trip to Missouri this weekend to mark their 13th wedding anniversary. Their older daughter, Abigayle or “Abbi,” 12, had just made a traveling soccer team and was enrolled in Camp Invention. Their younger daughter, Cassandra or “Sandi,” 11, was excited to begin clarinet lessons. And Blake, their youngest child at 8, couldn’t wait to watch the latest “Fantastic Four” movie.

All things to look forward to as they laughed with friends Wednesday night, according to law enforcement sources.

Nine hours later, Kimberly and the three children were found shot to death in the family’s SUV in Channahon, 45 miles southwest of Chicago. Christopher Vaughn, 32, was found near the red Ford Expedition, a minor gunshot wound in his thigh. He told investigators his wife pulled the trigger, but he continued to be questioned into the evening, authorities said.

“He is not a suspect at this time. In fact, he’s free to go,” said Illinois State Police Capt. Carl Dobrich. Asked about Vaughn’s demeanor, Dobrich would only say, “It is sad.”

Christopher Vaughn told investigators the family was on a trip when he pulled off Interstate 55 and parked near Frontage and Bluff roads to secure some luggage atop the SUV, according to law enforcement sources.

Vaughn said that when he got back into the SUV, his wife began firing a handgun. He was shot in the leg, and he fled, he reportedly told investigators. When he returned, his wife and children had all been shot.

Residents in the area told investigators they heard gunshots around 2:30 a.m. Thursday, but law enforcement sources were still trying to nail down a timeline.

The call for help came about 5:25 a.m., when a passerby made a 911 call after seeing Vaughn on the side of the road. The passerby said he was driving to work when he saw a man and made the emergency call. Investigators were tight-lipped about the 911 call.

“That’s still part of the investigation,” Dobrich said in a press conference. “The passerby that called 911 and the individual we’re talking to now were together when the call was made, so we’re not going to elaborate on that.”

One source said a cell phone was found in the family SUV.

Kimberly was found in the front passenger seat and died of a single gunshot wound to the head, Dobrich said. The children were in the back seat and suffered multiple shots, a source said.

Christopher Vaughn’s mother gasped in disbelief when a reporter told her of the deaths. Her son and Kimberly didn’t appear to have any problems, Gail Vaughn said from her Missouri home.

“They’re a fantastic family,” she said. “They really work together.”

Oswego police say they had not been called to the family’s home, and Kendall County authorities say there were no divorce filings in the case. Investigators searched the Vaughn home Thursday night and carried away a computer.

Authorities said it appeared the family was on a day trip to a water park in Springfield. There were swimming suits in the back of the Expedition.

The Vaughns met in St. Charles, Mo., and lived in Missouri, Washington state and Aurora before moving to the $340,000 home in the 700 block of Mansfield Court in Oswego a year ago.

Christopher Vaughn works as a computer forensic adviser, rooting out computer fraud and embezzling within companies, his mother said. He traveled for work frequently, including a recent trip to Mexico.

Neighbors described him as a loving family man who frequently tooled around a woodworking shop he built in his garage. He was an avid outdoorsman, holding fishing and hunting permits.

“He is great guy, very active, very loving,” said a neighbor who didn’t want to be named.

Neighbors said Kimberly was just about to complete an online degree in criminal justice administration. She recently took a job as an attendant at a subdivision clubhouse.

“She was a homemaker,” the neighbor said. “She loved to cook and read, and everything centered around her kids and their activities. She was just a very spirited and energetic person who loved life. She was very talkative, social and got along with everyone.”

The children, often seen zipping up and down the block on their bicycles or catching fireflies at dusk, were described as well-mannered and interested in science and going to museums.

Thursday night, neighbors held an impromptu candlelight vigil outside the Vaughn home on Mansfield Court.

“They were a very loving, tight-knit family, always doing stuff together,” one resident said, adding they “couldn’t be better neighbors.”

THE VAUGHN FAMILY:

Blake Vaughn, 8

Just finished second grade at Old Post Elementary School. He loved baseball, PlayStation, action heroes and the Fantastic Four.

Kimberly Vaughn, 34

Homemaker and part-time attendant at her subdivision clubhouse. She was about to complete an online degree in criminal justice administration.

Abigayle Vaughn, 12

Thompson Junior High School student. She was recently accepted on a traveling soccer team and to Camp Invention. Loved drawing and her goldfish Larry.

Christopher Vaughn, 32

Computer forensic adviser and University of Missouri engineering graduate. Enjoyed fishing, hunting and working with wood.

Cassandra Vaughn, 11

Just completed fifth grade at Old Post Elementary School. Had pet frogs and was “excited” to start clarinet lessons.

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