OSWEGO - Friends and neighbors struggled on Friday to make sense of the shooting deaths of a mother and her three children who lived in this Chicago suburb and whose bodies were found the previous day in the family car about 20 miles away.
Candles and bouquets of flowers rested at a makeshift memorial in front of the Vaughn family's spacious, four-bedroom home at the end of a cul-de-sac in Oswego; four white crosses also stood at the curb, each with a photograph of one of the victims.
Among several heartfelt notes laid at the site was one by a child, complete with misspellings, that read: "I heart you all so much. … You all where so sweet." Others children came by throughout the day, leaving flowers and stuffed animals.
Authorities insisted Friday that the father of the family, Christopher Vaughn, was not a suspect in the deaths of Kimberly Ellen Vaughn, 34, and their kids - Abigayle Elizabeth, 12, Cassandra Ellen, 11, and Blake Philip, 8.
Their bodies were found around 5:25 a.m. Thursday in the family sport utility vehicle on a service road near Interstate 55 in Channahon after a passer-by called 911. Christopher Vaughn, 32, was shot in the thigh but was treated and released from a nearby hospital.
He spent hours talking to authorities and left the Illinois State Police District 5 offices early Friday after telling police he wanted to rest, said Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Cheryl Lisy.
Police did not think anybody outside the family was involved, said Illinois State Police Capt. Carl Dobrich. A handgun was found at the scene, he said.
Investigators have conducted gunshot residue tests on Kimberly Vaughn's hands, a procedure that is normal protocol in a homicide investigation, Will County Chief Deputy Coroner Bob Brenczewski said Friday.
Susan Stasinos, who has lived next to the Vaughn house for about a year, said she never saw or heard anything that might suggest discord between Christopher and Kimberly Vaughn.
"When you hear people fighting, you notice it," said Stasinos, speaking from her front porch Friday. "I saw nothing but love."
An article last month about the Vaughns' Oswego home in the real estate section of the Chicago Sun-Times featured an idyllic photo of a relaxed Christopher and Kimberly Vaughn sitting at a dining table - their three children standing behind them, smiling.
Christopher Vaughn's mother, Gail Vaughn, told the Sun-Times after the discovery of the bodies that her son didn't appear to have any marital problems.
"They're a fantastic family," she said.
There was no outward sign they faced financial trouble either, Stasinos said.
"They had a bright future as far as you could tell," she said. "Nothing makes sense."
Dobrich has said the family left Oswego before dawn Thursday, but he didn't know their intended destination. Stasinos said the family told neighbors Christopher and Kimberly Vaughn planned to celebrate their wedding anniversary over the weekend.
Kimberly Vaughn's sister, Nikki Isemann, told the Chicago Tribune that her sister was looking forward to a romantic getaway with her husband.
"Kim was very excited about it, getting last-minute things packed," she said. "Her husband, he adored her. He would do everything for her."
Another neighbor, Mohammad Ansar, described Kimberly Vaughn as "a homemaker" who was completing a degree online; another neighbor, Tony Bridges, told the Tribune it was a criminal justice degree.
The Vaughn family moved from Washington state to the Chicago area about a year ago, bringing their two dogs with them, according to the May 27 real estate article. They lived briefly in Aurora before relocating to the 3,373-square-foot home in an Oswego development where home prices started in the low $300,000s, the article said.
A Web site for a StoneBridge Investigations, a private investigation agency focusing on computer fraud and Internet crime, lists Vaughn as its principle investigator. A voice message from a man identifying himself as Chris Vaughn at a Chicago-area number for the company asked callers to leave a message.