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Former exotic dancer says suspect in SUV death case visited her at strip club

By Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — A former exotic dancer testified Tuesday that Christopher Vaughn visited her several times at a club in the weeks before his wife and three children were shot to death, saying he planned to leave his wife and she “wasn’t going to see it coming.”

Maya Drake told jurors that Vaughn paid for a private room at VIP’s, a gentleman’s club on the Near North Side, as many as five times in 2007 but that the two never did more than talk.

“He told me he was not happy in his marriage and that he wanted to leave his wife,” testified Drake, 34, who now lives in Kentucky. “He said she was very materialistic and that he didn’t care about money.”

As the trial at the Will County courthouse in Joliet moved into its third week, prosecutors continued to try to paint a stark contrast between Vaughn’s mood and actions and those of his wife before the June 2007 killings. A friend of Vaughn’s wife testified that Kimberly was becoming more involved in a local philanthropic organization and was excited about her recent graduation from an online university.

The Oswego father is accused of shooting his wife and three children — ages 8 to 12 — in their SUV after pulling onto a frontage road near Channahon during what he said was a surprise trip to a Springfield water park. Vaughn’s lawyers contend his wife was distraught over problems in the marriage and killed the children, shot and wounded her husband, then committed suicide.

Drake was the second former stripper to testify for the prosecution. Last month, Chrystal Miller told jurors Vaughn came into Score’s gentleman’s club in Stone Park twice in the week before the killings and dropped thousands of dollars in a VIP room.

Drake wasn’t asked how much Vaughn spent on her at VIP’s. He was typically quiet and reserved, but on one visit, he appeared to be “upset” that his wife had spent $5,000 on curtains for their home.

He never divulged that he had children, but in telling Drake of his plans to desert his wife, Vaughn said he was going to leave his wife everything, she testified. “She was going to get what she deserved and she wasn’t going to see it coming,” she told jurors.

The two talked often about a mutual interest in writing poetry, camping and nature, she said. “I was a Girl Scout for six years,” Drake explained with a smirk.

Drake testified that after his final visit, Vaughn left a poem he had written for her with a friend.

Written primarily as a staccato series of two-word phrases, the handwritten verse was read aloud in court by Drake. “For her who I do not know…” it began, ending with the phrase, “two ancient souls, forever searching.”

Later in her testimony, Drake appeared to be dabbing tears from her eyes while Vaughn stared intently at her.

Last week, jurors were shown e-mails Vaughn had written to a friend in Canada in which he said a woman named “Maya” whom he had met at a club seemed interested in joining them when they moved to the Yukon, though he seemed skeptical of her survival skills. Drake, however, testified Vaughn never asked her about accompanying him to Canada.

A few months after Vaughn’s arrest in 2007, investigators discovered 140 pages of writings scribbled by Vaughn on lined notebook paper in symbols similar to ones used in an ancient language from medieval Ireland.

Scott Hull, a forensic analyst for the FBI, testified most of the pages were composed of Vaughn’s musings and mundane observations of life in jail — from what food had been served that day to when he was expecting a visit from his parents. Vaughn never mentioned his wife or three children or anything about their murders in the 140 pages, Hull said.

At the same time Vaughn was visiting strip clubs in 2007, he was also stockpiling camping and survival gear at a storage facility he rented without his wife’s knowledge, according to testimony Tuesday.

The wife’s friend, Elizabeth Copeland, who volunteered together at an organization for women seeking to further their education, choked up as she described Kimberly Vaughn as a bubbly person who talked about her family constantly.

“She just lit up a room,” Copeland testified through tears.

Copeland said she last saw her three days before the murders when the two rode together to a meeting. In a sign of troubles at home, Kimberly told Copeland she had started taking anti-anxiety medication.

Still, Copeland said, she was looking forward to celebrating their 13th anniversary the next week.

“She said, ‘I can’t believe it’s been that long,’” Copeland testified.

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