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Suspect’s jailhouse poem will be evidence in upcoming trial

By Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — The Will County, Ill., jury in the upcoming trial of Christopher Vaughn will hear evidence about a coded poem he wrote while jailed in the murders of his wife and three children that referred to a stripper with whom Vaughn allegedly wanted to start a new life.

Attorneys for Vaughn said Wednesday they do not object to prosecutors calling an FBI agent who decoded the poem, which was part of a 37-page scribbled diary seized by authorities at the Will County Jail in October 2007, a few months after Vaughn’s arrest in the slayings.

The poem, written as a list of things to do, includes the enigmatic phrase, “Ask Maya the question,” according to a court filing.

Prosecutors believe this is a reference to a Chicago stripper Vaughn frequented who became “an unwitting part” of Vaughn’s plan to start a new life in the Canadian wilderness, prosecutors said the evidence will show when his trial begins next week.

Vaughn is charged with fatally shooting his wife, Kimberly, 34, and their three children, Abigayle, 12, Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8. All four were found dead inside the family’s Ford Explorer when Vaughn, who suffered minor gunshot wounds, flagged down a passing car near Interstate 55 in Channahon Township.

Vaughn alleges his wife shot him, their three children and then herself.

Prosecutors insisted Wednesday they will only question the FBI witness about 15 lines of the poem that deal directly with Vaughn’s alleged plan to contact the stripper.

Judge Daniel Rozak warned that if prosecutors stray from that plan, Vaughn’s attorneys could get into other parts of the diary. The judge has barred prosecutors from raising Vaughn’s references to Druid beliefs, but the jailhouse writings also contain much about his Christian Bible studies and love of nature, attorneys said.

“If you do get into the religious part, you might open the door to the rest,” Rozak said.

Vaughn’s trial is expected to last up to six weeks. Opening statements are scheduled for Monday at the courthouse in Joliet.

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