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Christopher Vaughn's Lawyers Quit Case After Money Well Runs Dry

Deprived of cash from the state's capital litigation fund, the lawyers for an Oswego man charged with gunning down his wife and young children dump the case.

When Christopher Vaughn faced the death penalty, his attorneys had access to millions of dollars in state money to fund his defense and buy their time.

But after Governor Quinn banned capital punishment in March, that money went away, and on Tuesday, so did Vaughn's lawyers.

"We have absolutely no source of funding for Mr. Vaughn,"Joliet attorney Gerald Kielian told Judge Daniel Rozak as he entered his motion to withdraw from the case.

Vaughn, 36, faces charges he murdered his wife, Kimberly, 34, and three children — Blake, 8, Cassandra, 11, and Abigayle, 12. Vaughn was also represented by St. Louis attorney John Rogers. Rogers failed to attend Tuesday's hearing, sending instead Gibert Sison, an associate from his firm.

"Talking to Mr. Rogers, it's going to take four to five months of intense preparation" before going to trial, Sison told the judge. And Rogers apparently did not feel he has made enough money to do that kind of work.

Rozak appointed the public defender's office to the case. George Lenard, a Joliet attorney with a private practice who also works as a part-time public defender, landed the lead role in Vaughn's defense.

Among the more notable clients Lenard has represented are Craig Stebic and Drew Peterson. Stebic's wife, Lisa Stebic, vanished in April 2007. Stebic has not been charged with harming his missing wife.

Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing six months after Lisa Stebic. The state police believe Stacy Peterson may have been slain and named Drew Peterson the sole suspect in their investigation but have yet to charge him in connection with her disappearance.

The state police did arrest Peterson two years ago on charges he murdered his third wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found drowned in a dry bathtub in March 2004. Peterson has yet to go to trial. He has been held at the county jail on a $20 million bond since his arrest in May 2009.

Lenard quit the Peterson case after a dispute with attorney Joel Brodsky, whose involvement drove two other lawyers away from the Peterson camp as well.

Lenard's latest client, Vaughn, has been locked up in the same jail for nearly twice as long.

Vaughn and his family were heading from their Oswego home to a Springfield water park in June 2007 when he allegedly shot his wife and children to death as they sat in a sport utility vehicle on the frontage road outside Channahon, then put a bullet in his own leg.

Vaughn reportedly claimed that his wife was the one with the gun and that she shot him in the leg, then killed the children and herself.

As he has been in jail for four years, Vaughn, a former private investigator, is indigent, Kielian pointed out during Tuesday's hearing. Vaughn acknowledged that was the case.

But broke or not, Kielian said he and Rogers tried to stick by their client after they lost access to the capital litigation fund, but only so long as Will County was paying the bills.

Kielian said Chief Judge Gerald Kinney discussed this option with Will County Board President Jim Moustis but Moustis apparently was not interested in picking up the private attorneys' tab.

Lenard will act as Vaughn's lead counsel and be joined by two full-time public defenders who have yet to be appointed. Vaughn is due back in court June 23 for a status hearing.

oCoMiK May 11, 2011 at 02:12 AM
Can't one of the prisoners help the tax payees out by offing this piece of crap. I'm all for due process but four years is excessive oCoMiK
T May 11, 2011 at 02:56 PM
What is wrong with our sytem???? This is ridiculous!
beth June 07, 2011 at 06:36 AM
yes this is ridiculus! Come on, how stupid! He is soooo guilty HANG HIM ALREADY!
oswegoannie June 07, 2011 at 03:28 PM
It will be a travesty if Christopher Vaughn ends up a free man due to a technicality (like never receiving a trial.) The case against him is quite strong and it should not cost millions in attorneys fees to get him convicted. As for defense attorney George Lenard, I don't know how that man can sleep at night. I remember Lisa Stebic - my family assisted with some of the searches for her body.

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