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Expert casts doubt on how Vaughn shot

Bullet holes show gun was wrapped in jacket

Christopher Vaughn in on trial in Will County for the murders of his wife and three children.
Christopher Vaughn in on trial in Will County for the murders of his wife and three children.

JOLIET, Ill. (MCT) — A fleece jacket worn by Christopher Vaughn on the day his family was fatally shot and he was wounded had been wrapped around a handgun when the weapon was fired once, a police ballistics expert testified Thursday.

Jurors in Vaughn’s quadruple-murder trial in Joliet, Ill., have already heard plenty about the black-and-tan Stormtech jacket, including testimony that the Oswego, Ill., father fretted over how paramedics treated the garment when they took him to the hospital.

On Thursday, Nicole Fundell, of the Illinois State Police, testified that the jacket had bullet holes matching the caliber of the weapon used in the killings above the front left pocket and in the lower back that appeared to have been made by a single gunshot.

Prosecutors are expected to argue Vaughn used the jacket to cushion the blow when he shot himself in a bid to pin the killings on his wife. He sustained minor gunshot wounds to his wrist and leg.

To demonstrate how she believed the holes were made, Fundell got down off the witness stand holding Vaughn’s silver 9 mm handgun and wrapped the jacket around it twice, pulling the fabric tight against the muzzle.

The holes must have come “from a single shot while the weapon was contained within the jacket,” Fundell said.

Fundell also testified that bullet holes in the left leg of Vaughn’s jeans showed he was shot from closer than 6 inches.

Vaughn is accused of killing his wife, Kimberly; daughters Abigayle, 12, and Cassandra, 11; and son Blake, 8, on June 14, 2007, during what he said was a surprise trip to a Springfield, Ill., water park.

Prosecutors have said he wanted to start a new life in the Canadian wilderness.

But Vaughn’s lawyers contend his wife was distraught over problems in the marriage and killed the children, shot and wounded her husband, then committed suicide.

Prosecutors are building a case that Vaughn meticulously planned the killings, including deliberately wearing the same clothes to a gun range a night before so any gunshot residue could be explained away.

Video surveillance from a suburban gun range showed he was wearing the medium-weight coat when he took target practice the day before the killings, even though temperatures were well into the 80s.

A Will County sheriff’s deputy who was among the first to interview Vaughn in the hospital after the shootings also testified that Vaughn seemed more concerned about the jacket then what had happened to his family.

Earlier Thursday, jurors watched the last of a series of videos of police interviews of Vaughn in the days after the killings. The final interview occurred on Father’s Day. Police had asked Vaughn to come in, hoping the emotion of the day would prompt him to be more forthcoming about details of his relationship with his wife.

Vaughn was somber but talkative as he described his wife of nearly 13 years as outgoing and inquisitive. Vaughn said he was more of an introvert and described their relationship as rocky but not dysfunctional. He said they had their share of fights but that they were mostly over mundane issues.

When a state police investigator asked what his wife was like when she was angry, Vaughn said she would raise her voice but “that was about it.”

“She would cry a lot, raise her voice, say mean things sometimes, but she wasn’t violent,” Vaughn said.

On cross-examination of one of the police sergeants who conducted the interviews, Vaughn’s attorney, George Lenard, pointed out that Vaughn was never pushed to provide more details about how the shootings unfolded, suggesting investigators had already made up their minds about what had occurred.

Lenard also noted that Vaughn did not try to paint his wife as a violent person, even though detectives gave him the opportunity to do so.


©2012 Chicago Tribune

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