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Only Vaughn trial lesson: there is evil in this world

by Tony Scott

10/7/2012

This past summer, after the trial date for Christopher Vaughn had been set, I was out driving around one lazy Sunday and decided, for whatever reason - we reporters have a sense of morbid curiosity - to go by the old Vaughn family home in Oswego.

I'd never visited it before - not even back in 2007 after the murders as the national and Chicago media descended upon the neighborhood. But something compelled me to drive by and take a look.

It was a sunny early June day, and down the block from the two-story home once shared by Vaughn, his wife Kimberly and their kids, Abigayle, Cassandra and Blake, a family held a graduation party. The garage was open, tables were filled with cake and presents, and people seemed to be having a great time, celebrating someone's bright future.

Along the sidewalk in front of the home, kids rode skateboards and bikes, just like the Vaughn kids most likely did in the same neighborhood.

It was once a home of a family with a bright future, now it's just a house. It's a symbol of how life, in a cruel way, goes on, even when four people with bright futures are, in the words of Will County prosecutors, annihilated.

I honestly don't know how the prosecutors do it, day in and day out - or the defense attorneys, or the crime scene investigators, or the paramedics or police officers. I don't know how they are able to deal with such tragedy and loss and gruesome minutiae on a daily basis without going insane or becoming a raging alcoholic.

I covered the Vaughn trial on as many days as I could - we have other stuff to cover and other issues to write about - but the five weeks of that trial just plain wore me out.

Some of the testimony was, on its face, boring - some forensics expert talking about glass shards or blood droplets, for example. But then, out of nowhere, the person testifying would use one of the kid's names or Kimberly's name, and you'd get jerked back to reality. They weren't just talking about a shard of glass or a drop of blood - they were talking about the blood that dripped from fatal gunshot wounds delivered by a supposedly loving husband and father to the people he was supposed to protect.

You were reminded of the lives of Abigayle Elizabeth "Abbi" Vaughn, Cassandra Ellen "Sandi" Vaughn, and Blake Phillip Vaughn, and Kimberly, every single day at the trial.

I don't know what seems to be an inevitable life sentence pending for Christopher Vaughn will mean to Kimberly's family, the Phillips. No matter what, their grandkids, nieces and nephews will be frozen in time, never able to accomplish more or live a full life, and their daughter and sister's future plans to go to law school will never come to be.

Meanwhile, their murderer will be, as Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow put it after the trial, staring at the cold walls of a prison cell most likely for the rest of his natural life.

During the trial, when I would see him, Vaughn simply stared straight ahead, or occasionally spoke to his attorney. He showed no emotion, whether it was during testimony, when the photo of his wife, shot in the head, lifeless, popped onto a large flatscreen TV for the jury, or when Judge Dan Rozak read four guilty verdicts by the jury.

Maybe Vaughn will be haunted by memories of his family. Maybe they will come to him, at night, when he sleeps, and remind him every night of what he did to them. Maybe, like a prosecutor alluded, their memories will haunt him like Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."

And sick thing is, Vaughn could have simply walked away. He could have abandoned his family, moved to the Canadian wilderness and, while he would have been regarded as a scoundrel, his family would have lived. Abbi, Sandi and Blake could have gone on to be writers, doctors, scientists, artists, or community leaders.

Instead, we are left to wonder why, and we have to move on. And there will be future birthdays and holidays and graduation parties without those four people on this earth. The only thing we have learned is that there is evil in the world, and the community of Oswego experienced it one early morning in June of 2007.

E-mail Tony at tonyscott@kendallcountyrecord.com




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