Illinois mother, 3 children found shot to death in SUV

By Don Babwin

CHANNAHON, Ill. – Three children and their mother were found shot to death Thursday morning in a sport utility vehicle parked just off a highway, and the father was talking to police, authorities said.

The Will County Coroner’s office identified the victims as 34-year-old Kimberly Ellen Vaughn and her children _ Abigayle Elizabeth, 12, Cassandra Ellen, 11, and Blake Phili, 8, all of Oswego. The mother was shot once and the children all were shot multiple times, Coroner Patrick O’Neil said.

Their bodies were discovered around 5:25 a.m. in the 2004 Ford Expedition, parked on a service road near Interstate 55, after receiving a 911 call from a passer-by, authorities said.

Kimberly Vaughn’s husband, Christopher Vaughn, who had a gunshot wound to the thigh, stood with the caller until police arrived, Illinois State Police Capt. Carl Dobrich said. A handgun was found at the scene, Dobrich said.

Christopher Vaughn, 32, was taken to Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, where he was treated and released to police, hospital spokeswoman Allie Rios said.

Dobrich said Vaughn was not a suspect and was not under arrest Thursday afternoon.

“He’s being talked to,” Dobrich said. “He’s free to go, he has not asked to leave, he’s answering questions and he’s assisting us greatly.”

The family left their Oswego home before dawn Thursday on a “social trip,” Dobrich said, but added he didn’t know their intended destination.

Dobrich said police did not think anybody else was involved in the shootings. Police in Channahon, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago in Will County, found the SUV on a service road to a cell phone tower just west of Interstate 55 and east of the Heritage Bluffs golf course.

“This event we believe is concentrated to what we have at the scene … we are just trying to get down to the truth as to what actually happened,” he said.

A neighbor of the Vaughns’ spacious Oswego home, about 20 miles north of Channahon, said he had never seen any signs of discord at the Vaughn household, where he said police detectives were working most of Thursday.

“They were very nice people, both the wife and husband … they looked like a loving couple,” said Mohammad Ansar. “They were like a perfect family if you saw them.”

The mother would walk the kids to a school bus in the morning, said Ansar, adding that the three children “were very cute” and “very well behaved.”

Ansar said Christopher Vaughn worked in computers and often was away on business. He described Kimberly Vaughn as “a homemaker” who got a degree online last year. He didn’t know in what subject.

“This is devastating,” he said. “Everybody (in the neighborhood) is shocked.”

A woman who lives near where the bodies were found, Debra Walick, said she heard several loud cracking sounds at around 10 p.m. Wednesday _ which she later believed were gunshots. But Dobrich said he couldn’t confirm shots had been fired at that time.

Another nearby resident said she and her husband were unsettled by the killings.

“A lot of nights we go to bed at night without our door locked,” said 70-year-old Nancy Maas. “I bet we won’t do that again.”

An article last month about the Vaughns’ Oswego home in the real estate section of the Chicago Sun-Times featured an idyllic photo of a relaxed Christopher and Kimberly Vaughn sitting at a dining table – their three children standing behind them smiling.

“We really liked the small-town atmosphere of Oswego,” Kimberly Vaughn told the Sun-Times. “We also checked on the schools our three children would be attending and found them to be highly rated.”

The Vaughn family moved from Washington state to the Chicago area about a year ago, bringing their two dogs with them, according to the May 27 article. They lived briefly in an Aurora apartment before relocating to the 3,373-square-foot, 4-bedroom home in an Oswego development where home prices started in the low $300,000s, the article said.

A police chaplain and counselors were available for police who responded to the scene of the shootings, Dobrich told reporters Thursday. Dobrich declined to provide details but suggested the scene was deeply disturbing.

“To be blunt, I have kids at home that age,” he said. “And it affected people there immensely. It was a very sad scene.”