Jury Won't Hear Cop's Charge that State Ignored Murder-Suicide Theory
However, the state trooper who made it was allowed to testify on the record that Will County State's Attorney Jim Glasgow called Kimberly Vaughn an "angel" incapable of murder.
An Illinois state trooper who gathered evidence at the Vaughn family death scene was not allowed to tell a jury Friday that he believed prosecutors and police did not consider murder-suicide as a possible scenario.
However, Will County Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak did allow Sgt. Robert Deel to testify while the jury was out of the room so his allegation will be a part of the official court record in the trial of Christopher Vaughn, 37, of Oswego, who's charged with killing his wife and three children on June 14, 2007.
The issue of what Deel could and could not say to the jury was broached by Will County prosecutors, who filed a motion earlier this week asking that Deel's testimony be limited so that defense attorney George Lenard could not ask any questions related to Deel's opinions on how the case was handled.
Lenard maintains the case is actually one of murder-suicide, alleging that Kimberly Vaughn, 34, shot her husband while they were parked on a quiet road in rural Channahon before turning the gun on her three young children, ages 12, 11 and 8, and then on herself.
The prosecutors also wanted to prevent Lenard from asking questions about Deel's work with the Drew Peterson murder case or about why Deel is no longer a crime scene investigator.
Rozak granted that request but did allow Lenard to ask Deel about a meeting he attended at which Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow and then-Illinois State Police District 5 Cmdr. Ken Kaupas dismissed his suggestion that they "keep an open mind" about the possibility of the murder-suicide scenario.
Deel testified he attended a meeting of police and prosecutors on June 15, 2007 -- the day after the family was found dead -- at which he suggested Kimberly Vaughn should be considered a suspect.
Lenard asked if he met any "resistance" to this theory.
"To put it mildly, yes," Deel said.
"When I (suggested) the possibility of murder-suicide, (Glasgow) said Kim Vaughn was an angel and there was no way she would ever have a gun in her hand," he said.
As for Kaupas, "He was of the belief this was a murder Chris Vaughn committed and no other possibility of what happened existed," Deel said.
"At that time ... I thought everyone should have kept more of an open mind as to what occurred or could have occurred, and that didn't happen," he said.
Rozak had previously asked Lenard to determine if Deel was given any explicit direction not do something that could serve as "proof" that the state was only exploring one possible scenario, but none was offered Friday.
Prosecutors, however, did present an email from an assistant director at the Illinois State Crime Lab, written after the meeting, that said he understood they were to analzye evidence in which a "domestic homicide" or a "domestic homicide-suicide" could have occurred.
Outside of the courtoom, Kaupas said Deel's memory was off on several points, including the date of the meeting -- it happened on June 14, 2007, not June 15 -- and the fact that it was held by phone and not in person.
He also said Glasgow never made any mention of Kimberly Vaughn being an "angel" who couldn't have possibly murdered her family. Deel is not a detective and had access only to physical evidence -- primarily blood drops and bullet casings -- meaning he wasn't "privy" to other things investigators were uncovering, he said.
Kaupas added that Deel's actual words to the group were, "She's good for it," which is open to interpretation.
Following the Friday morning hearing, Deel was allowed to testify about photographs and physical evidence he and another crime scene investigator gathered from inside and near the family's SUV and along the Frontage Road route Christopher Vaughn walked to find help.
The most graphic photos were those of Kimberly Vaughn's dead body in the vehicle's front seat and the bullet hole that entered her head from beneath her chin.
Other physical evidence introduced included spent bullet shells and casings, the gun used in the shooting, sections of the car where blood was splattered or bullets entered, DNA samples from Kimberly and Christopher Vaughn, clothing both were wearing on the day of the shootings, and other items, such as a cell phone and a blooded-covered paperback book.
Also of interest was the seat belt used by Kimberly Vaughn that was not latched when police discovered her body. When investigators retracted it later, they discovered it had been sprayed by dots that appeared to be blood, Deel said.
One thing that was not included in the evidence was a blood-spotted rag that was on Kimberly Vaughn's thigh at the time of her death. Because the van, with the bodies still inside, was transported to the morgue via a flat-bed truck in order to provide privacy for the victims, Deel did not remove it and county employees mistakenly thought it belonged to the morgue and laundered it.
That was an "error," Deel acknowledged.
Here are the stories from the previous days of testimony: