Four years to the day he after was arrested at a Missouri funeral home for allegedly gunning down his entire family, Christopher Vaughn appeared in court to find out he's going to do at least another two months and a week before he even makes it to his next pretrial hearing.
Vaughn, 36, allegedly shot his wife, Kimberly, 34, and three children — Blake, 8, Cassandra, 11, and Abigayle, 12 — in June 2007.
The family was heading from their home in Oswego to a Springfield water park when Vaughn killed them all as they sat in a parked sport utility vehicle on the Interstate 55 Frontage Road in Channahon Township, near Shorewood, police and prosecutors have said.
Vaughn claimed that it was his wife that killed the children — and tried to get him as well — before turning the gun on herself and committing suicide. Vaughn was found the morning of the killings with a bullet wound to his leg. The authorities believe he shot himself as part of his cover story.
Vaughn had been represented by St. Louis attorney John Rogers and Joliet lawyer Gerald Kielian but they quit the case last month. Rogers and Kielian had been collecting money from the state's Capital Litigation Fund while Vaughn faced the death penalty. They were cut off from the cash after the governor put an end to capital punishment in Illinois and subsequently abandoned the case.
Joliet attorney George Lenard, who works as a part-time public defender in addition to maintaining a private practice, got Vaughn's case after Rogers and Kielian bailed. Lenard, who for a time represented accused wife-killer Drew Peterson in his murder case, has two full-time public defenders assisting him in the Vaughn matter.
During Vaughn's court appearance Thursday morning, Lenard pointed out that two other public defenders, Lea Norbut and Greg DeBord, were working as prosecutors at the time of Vaughn's arrest. Norbut even visited the crime scene, Lenard said, and questioned witnesses during grand jury proceedings.
Assistant State's Attorney John Connor agreed that Norbut and DeBord did not present a conflict so long as they had nothing to do with Vaughn's case and were separated from it by a "Chinese wall."
Judge Daniel Rozak set Vaughn's next court date for Aug. 30.