Did the call of the wild drive this dad to kill?
It was 2006 and life was good for the Vaughn family.
Kimberly, 33, and her husband, Christopher, 36, lived in a big home in Oswego, Illinois, with their kids, Abigayle, 11, Cassandra, 10, and Blake, 7.
Chris was a computer specialist, while Kimberly studied for a Criminal Justice degree. She’d made friends on the course, and often emailed them about her happy life.
She told them she was looking forward to her wedding anniversary in 2009, and though Chris’ job meant frequent business trips, she totally trusted her husband.
In emails sent in May 2007, she sounded upbeat – but was she? Because she’d also researched marriage counselling websites.
In June 2007, Kimberly, then 34, graduated. Her family threw a surprise party, during which Chris talked about taking his wife on a second honeymoon.
But a few days after, the family set out on a trip to a water park in Springfield, Illinois.
The kids snuggled up with blankets in the back. But they never made it to the park.
Chris was next seen bloody and injured, flagging down a passing motorist.
In the car, Kimberly and the kids had been shot dead.
Chris had gunshot wounds, but survived to tell how Kimberly had shot him, then her children. Then she’d turned the gun on herself.
Vaughn was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder. He denied it, claiming Kimberly was suicidal, that their marriage was crumbling and it’d driven her to this.
By the time he appeared in court in July, it emerged that Vaughn had a secret dream…of living in the Canadian wilderness. Freedom.
He’d compiled survival guides and posted messages about constructing a cabin and settling in the Yukon, a part of Canada largely cut off from the world.
And his business trips? His chance to scout out the wilderness.
It turned out Vaughn had spent thousands of dollars at gentlemen’s clubs, telling an exotic dancer he’d met that he wanted to leave Kimberly.
He was also stockpiling survival gear. But was he a killer? Vaughn argued that he was not – and there was plenty of evidence to back up his case.
He claimed that his marriage had problems ever since he confessed to Kimberly that he’d had affairs while on business trips.
He said Kimberly was angry and feared she could have contracted AIDS.
A forensic pathologist testified that her migraine medication has been known to increase risk of suicidal thoughts. Crucially, the pathologist could not determine whether Kimberly shot herself or had been shot.
So had her husband’s betrayal caused her to kill her kids, then herself? Or was Vaughn guilty of murdering his family?
In November 2012, jurors found Christopher Vaughn, 37, guilty of all four counts of first-degree murder. It was claimed he saw his wife and three children as obstacles to starting his new life in the Canadian wilderness.
He was sentenced to four life terms.
By Rachel Tompkins