Vaughn Planned New Life in Canada, Email Friend Says
Christoper Vaughn wrote dozens of notes about his plans to disappear into the Canadian wilderness, only briefly mentioning his wife and never his children.
Christopher Vaughn exchanged email for months with a Canadian man, discussing his elaborate plans to start a new life in the wilderness and only briefly mentioning his wife as a detail that needed to be tied up.
The recipient of those notes, Stephen Willott, 31, of Ottawa, Ontario, testified at Vaughn's murder trial Friday and was asked to read to the jury dozens of letters he received from Vaughn between fall 2006 and June 2007, the month in which Vaughn allegedly killed his wife and three children.
The pair met through a Web site called 43 Things and struck up an online friendship because of their mutual love of the Canadian wilderness. Within months, Vaughn --- writing under the psuedonym "Flint" -- was trading email with Willott almost every day.
In one note Vaughn sent in February 2007, he quoted an essay by naturalist Henry David Thoreau: "If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again -- if you have paid your debts and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.”
That was what he was doing, Vaughn wrote.
"I intend to walk into a different lifestyle without any regrets," he said. "I'm not looking to return."
At one point, Vaughn suggested he might stage his own death to free him of his obligations, thereby ensuring his wife would be OK financially because she would be his insurance policy beneficiary. In another, he says he's paying for his wife's education so she can support herself when he's gone.
"She'll get my money ... and I've paid for her to get her college degree this year. She'll be fine," he wrote. "If I drop off the face of the earth, life will go on."
In none of the notes does he mention his children: Abigayle, 12, Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8, all of whom were found shot to death inside the family SUV while it was parked in a secluded area near Channahon. His wife was also killed, although Vaughn's defense is that she shot him and killed the children and herself.
He does, however, mention his dissatisfaction with suburban life and the traditional trajectory of job, house, family and death that most people pursue, regardless of whether it makes them happy.
"I started down that path but unlike most people, I realize I have an option," he wrote.
In another note, he says he's unhappy with his wife and sick of being a "servant."
"The lady I live with every once in awhile does something nice but 99 percent of the time she's not pleasant to be around," he wrote.
In just one email, he mentions a woman named "Maya," whom he met on a trip to Mexico and who shares some of his wilderness living views.
"It wouldn't be too bad to bring her long," he muses. "Mexico has the most beautiful women I've ever seen. ... They love gringos with pesos."
It's not known whether Maya is one of the women Vaughn told police investigators he slept with during a Mexican business trip -- and about whom he allegedly told his wife, causing a lot of relationship turmoil that he was trying to "patch up."
In the vast majority of Vaughn's email with Willott, he is focused on traveling to Canada for a week in spring 2007 to do an exploratory trip in anticipation of leaving for good in spring 2008.
He writes of experimenting with such things as tanning hides, making jerky and carving bows and of building winter and summer shelters. A lot of discussion centers on the best place to start, what kinds of gear they would need and how much they can carry.
"As much as we call it camping, I'm going to be living there, not camping," he wrote.
Vaughn seems to see Willott as his companion in the adventure, but the Canadian man said he'd never adopt the lifestyle on a full-time basis, in part because he'd miss his family. His interest, Willott said, was to do it for a couple of months at a time.
Under cross examination, Willott admitted he liked "dreaming" about going off into the wilderness as an escape from life but would not agree with defense attorney George Lenard's suggestion that Vaughn was dreaming, too.
"I actually thought he was going to go," he said.
Here are the stories from the previous days of testimony: