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Suspect in deaths of wife, children was concerned about his boots, paramedic testifies

Published: Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 9:29 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO (MCT) — Christopher Vaughn was being treated for a gunshot to the leg yards from where his wife and three children had just been shot to death when a paramedic started cutting his pant leg to expose the wound.

Vaughn had a distant look in his eyes and wasn’t responding to questions about who shot him or why, Derek Ellenberger, a Channahon Fire Protection District paramedic, testified Wednesday at Vaughn’s murder trial in Will County, Ill.

But Vaughn briefly snapped out of his fog when he saw the shears near his new cowboy boots, Ellenberger testified for the prosecution.

“He was adamant that I did not mess up his boots in any way,” Ellenberger said.

Vaughn’s wife, Kimberly; daughters Abigayle, 12, and Sandy, 11; and son Blake, 8, were all found fatally shot while still buckled in the family’s SUV three days before Father’s Day in 2007. Prosecutors contend Vaughn wanted to start a new life in the Canadian wilderness and had lured his family into taking a surprise, early-morning trip to a water park near Springfield, Ill.

The defense maintains that it was Kimberly Vaughn, distraught about her crumbling marriage, who wounded her husband, shot her children and killed herself.

Another prosecution witness, John Speer, testified Wednesday he was on his way to work shortly after 5 a.m. on June 14, 2007, when he saw Vaughn stumbling down the gravelly edge of the frontage road along Interstate 55 near Channahon, bleeding from his left thigh and wrist.

“I think my wife shot me,” Speer quoted Vaughn as telling him. Vaughn then mumbled something about her “having the kids” but soon stopped answering questions, Speer said.

Speer testified he put Vaughn in his pickup truck, called 911 and used a rag to apply pressure to Vaughn’s leg wound.

In the 911 call played Wednesday for jurors, Vaughn could be heard in the background mumbling “red Ford” in a reference to the family’s SUV.

“I got out,” Vaughn said. But then he said no more

Speer told the dispatcher he thought Vaughn was going into shock.

Corey Burket, a Will County sheriff’s deputy, testified Vaughn was still in a daze when he was questioned at the hospital later that day. He asked if his wife knew that he was in the hospital. “He said she always wonders where he’s at,” Burket said.

Vaughn offered vague information about the trip to the water park but never asked if his children were safe, Burket said. Instead, he expressed more concern for his clothes.

“He said he was angry because the firemen had ruined his coat,” Burket testified. “He said (the coat) was from the Yukon. I asked him where the Yukon was at, and he said it was in Canada.”

A short time later, Vaughn began to offer his first comments on what unfolded in the SUV, according to testimony. Still in his hospital bed, Vaughn told of pulling the vehicle off the road because his wife was nauseated, said Dennis Carey, a Will County sheriff’s detective.

Vaughn said he got out to check the roof rack but saw blood on his leg as he returned to the SUV, according to Carey’s recollection of the interview.

“He said he then told his wife he was hurt and was going to go for help,” Carey said. Vaughn said he never saw a gun and did not hear any shots, according to the detective.

On Wednesday, the jury was also shown the first of possibly dozens of emails and text messages sent by Kimberly Vaughn in the weeks before her death. Prosecutors say they show she wasn’t distraught and suicidal.

The emails were displayed on a large screen in Judge Daniel Rozak’s courtroom and read aloud by Robin Rabiner, a professor who was teaching an online class on criminal justice that Kimberly Vaughn was taking through the University of Phoenix.

In the emails, Vaughn wrote with enthusiasm about what she was learning and often talked of looking forward to what was to come in the class. “You can never get tired of learning on this subject,” she wrote in one message.

But the night before the slayings, she expressed some frustration about a project she had yet to complete. She was up late emailing her classmates an apology for not finishing her part of the project.

“I’m working on my portion right now,” she wrote. “I’m going to devote more time to it tomorrow.”

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