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Christopher Vaughn gets 4 life sentences, no parole

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christopher Vaughn, the man convicted of killing his wife and three children along a Channahon highway, received four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors say Vaughn shot his wife, Kimberly, and three children -- Abigayle, Cassandra, and Blake -- so he could start a new life in the Canadian wilderness.

Kimberly's parents and two sisters, including her twin, read victims' impact statements on Tuesday after Christopher Vaughn was sentenced. Her mother, Susan Phillips, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, said she learned of Kimberly's death while watching TV.

"What kind of a person could take the lives of three beautiful children and a loving wife?" Philips asked repeatedly. "What a coward." Phillips said divorce was an option, and Christopher Vaughn could have "walked away."

Kimberly's identical twin sister also read her victim's impact statement. She said her heart was crushed with Kimberly's death, and that the chidren were "priceless" to everyone but the one man who should have loved them "more than his own life."

"No more hugs, no more, 'I love you.' No weddings, no graduations, only funerals," she said.

"Thank God for giving us grace to get through this," Del Phillips said.

"People start to cry before we ever say a word, and then we end up being the comforter, but in a way, that's also, I think, part of our closure, that we're able to give," said Susan Phillips.

Kimberly Vaughn's mother on the stand Tuesday talked about her grandchildren, Abby the scholar athlete, Sandy the animal lover, Blake, the fantastic reader. Ending their lives, she said, was the act of a selfish coward who always had the option of just walking away or filing for divorce instead of murder.

"What father or what man for that matter, would not give their own life up for a kid?" Del Phillips.

Kim Vaughn's family says they were hoping that Christopher Vaughn might open up Tuesday and provide some explanation for what he did, perhaps even offer an apology. That did not happen.

Christopher Vaughn gazed up to the sides of the courtroom and spoke with his attorneys during the impact statements. When asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Christopher Vaughn replied, "No, thank you."

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow called the murders a "diabolical atrocity" committed by a "heartless, soulless psychopath." He said, "even 500 life sentences couldn't fit this crime."

Kimberly's family spoke publically for the first time on Tuesday afternoon once Vaughn had been sentenced. They told reporters that Christopher Vaughn was immersed in computers and not very social with their family. They described Vaughn as an "absent father" and Kimberly Vaughn's father, Del Phillips, who suffered a heart attack after the 2007 murders, said he was "clever and cagey."

"Kim took the role of both parents," Del Phillips said.

Vaughn's murder trial overlapped with that of Drew Peterson, the former suburban Chicago police officer convicted of killing his third wife. Vaughn's attorney, George Lenard, argued that his client didn't get a fair trial partly because the news conferences held by Peterson's lawyers at the court damaged Lenard's own credibility as a defense attorney.

Will County Judge Daniel Rozak said Tuesday there is no evidence that jurors were even aware of the other attorneys' news conferences.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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