Kimberly Vaughn spent the night of June 13, 2007, making dinner for close neighborhood friends and speaking with her sister by phone about study questions for a class she was taking, witnesses testified Tuesday.
If the woman was just a few short hours away from shooting her husband and children in the family's SUV while it was parked on a desolate frontage road off Interstate 55 between Joliet and Channahon, she showed no signs of it to family and friends.
has been charged with the murders of his 34-year-old wife and three children, ages 12, 11 and 8, but defense attorney George Lenard is attempting to draw a picture of Kimberly Vaughn as the true killer, anxious over neighborhood problems, despondent over a crumbling marriage and perhaps under the influence of medication.
That would seem to fly in the face of testimony offered Tuesday, in which the stay-at-home mother was described as being "exuberant" over completing her bachelor's degree from Phoenix University and "proud" that she'd just landed a part-time job at her subdivision's clubhouse. She was looking forward to several family trips, including a second honeymoon with her husband to Herman, Mo., witnesses said.
"Kim appeared (on June 13, 2007) the way she always did -- very friendly and talkative and inquiring about what life was like for us with (our) new baby," said neighbor Todd Andrlik, who described Kimberly and Christopher Vaughn as he and his wife's "closest friends in the neighborhood."
The two families got together almost every weekend and several times during the course of a week, often dropping by each other's homes and sharing meals, Andrlik said. On that particular night five years ago, he joked that the couple had "invited themselves over to dinner" at the Vaughn residence when he heard what they were serving.
There was nothing out of the ordinary that evening, Andrlik's wife, Hillary, testified.
"(Kim) was relaxed, she was herself," she said. "I didn't notice anything different (from her normal demeanor). ... The kids were super excited about the camps they were enrolled in."
While the couples discussed a variety of topics, one thing that did not come up was a family trip to a Springfield water park, which was where the Vaughn family was headed in the early morning hours of June 14, 2007, when the shootings occurred.
Witnesses conceded there were some cracks in the Vaughn marriage, a union that brought together a wife who was known for her bubbly, outgoing personality and a husband who was extremely introverted.
Kimberly Vaughn's sister, Elizabeth Isemann, of Lincoln, Neb., said she spoke to her sister on a daily basis, including three times the day before her death. Kimberly admitted to her that she was trying to "reconnect" with her husband and the two sisters talked about ways to change the couple's bedroom to make it more romantic, Eisemann testified, choking back tears.
Vaughn's father, Del Phillips, testified that while Kimberly was exuberantly happy during the visit he and his wife made for Kimberly's college graduation, there were two incidents that troubled him. One was Christopher's failure to make breakfast for the family on the day of her graduation, which led to a "tense conversation" between husband and wife in which he later observed that it appeared his daughter had been crying, Phillips said.
The other was on the day of the couple was to return home to St. Charles, Mo. Christopher Vaughn left the house for work without saying goodbye to his father-in-law, which struck Phillips as strange enough to ask his daughter about it.
"(Chris) just walked right on by, stone-faced, determined to leave," Phillips said. "(Kim said) Chris was probably just thinking about work. ... She defended him like she always defended him. ... I was the one who was criticizing him."
Phillips said he was also surprised when Christopher Vaughn told him he planned to take Kimberly on a second honeymoon, the type of personal information he never spoke of to his in-laws.
"That was very unusual for him to share that kind of information with me," Phillips said.